BISBEE — It was good news for the restaurants and bars in Bisbee as the mayor and city council members voted unanimously to adopt a temporary extension of premises application permit for these businesses to move dining outdoors.

Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order allowing outside dining as an option for restaurants to mitigate the spread of COVID–19 rather than shutting them down again as positive cases increase dramatically in the state. The extended area must be within 60 feet of the businesses. In order for the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses to approve any such extension of business, cities, towns and counties must approve the extension first.

Mayor Ken Budge said, “My biggest concern is safety protection for the patrons if it’s moved outside to the streets. The city should be included on their insurance and they need to sign a waiver.”

He also said the city would not provide the bollards to block off traffic.

Councilman Frank Davis said, “It’s important to support our businesses.”

The closure of Subway Street and Commerce Street was suggested by Councilwoman Joni Giacomino.

Main Street could be partially closed as well.

There was no discussion on the impact of losing parking spaces, which is a problem in Old Bisbee.

A number of business owners and residents sent emails in support of the extensions.

As businesses submit the application, the mayor and council will still have to approve each one before it goes to the state liquor board for final approval.

Fees waived of commercial fire inspections

The mayor and council members unanimously approved the waiver of fees on commercial fire inspections as requested by Fire Marshal Jim Richardson.

Richardson told the council many businesses had not been inspected for years and as a result many were required to bring their establishments up to code, which for some was a high cost.

“Let them spend the money on upgrades and extend the waivers as long as possible,” Richardson said.

Some businesses have required multiple inspections as owners bring them up to code, he added.

Pawlik suggested waiving the fees through the end of the fiscal year, June 30.

Budge questioned the impact of losing anticipated revenue from the fees budgeted at $50,000. City Manager Theresa Coleman said, “The potential fire hazards outweighs giving up the income on preventive measures.”

There was no discussion on how to make up the loss of revenue.

Animal Shelter discussed

During a discussion on the petition to reinstate Friends of the Bisbee Animal Shelter, Councilman Louis Pawlik said he was “proud of the work” the nonprofit has done in caring for the city’s animals, but “we’re in hard times.”

The city voters did not approve the 1 cent sales tax increase. The amount was built into the fiscal year budget and now measures have to be taken to make up for that revenue.

Pawlik further said the actual cost for the city would be $17,000 for animals brought in by the police department and animal control officer (if the position is filled). The city was asked to pay $80,000 a year, but there is no contract for that expenditure. He again suggested the city hold a referendum to let the city voters decide how much they want to pay for the shelter.

Budge suggested Pawlik request the referendum idea be placed on a future council agenda for discussion.

Councilwoman Joan Hansen voiced her concerns over the temperament of some residents who expressed their displeasure in no uncertain terms about the city severing FBAS from the shelter operations.

“How did we get to this juncture where there is so much hurt?” she asked. “Friends played it out in social media causing a lot of misunderstanding. There is so much misinformation out there.”

She questioned why residents thought the city would close the shelter or turn it into a kill shelter, saying, “That’s not the situation.”

She said the staff and volunteers at the shelter were “doing a great job” and she supports the shelter. Five dogs and four cats from the shelter found a home with her since she moved to Bisbee.

Giacomino pointed out the shelter takes in more than 80 animals from the police department as people have to surrender their animals for various reasons. Also, people rely on the spay and neuter and vaccination clinics FBAS supports and she wants to see that continued.

“I have no issue with taking animals from other places,” she continued. “Communication and cooperation is a two-way street. We help them and they help us.”

Councilwoman Leslie Johns noted there is not a lot she would want changed at the shelter and pointed out referendums cost money the city does not have. For her, the 300-person demonstration and the petition was enough to show the will of the community.

The council decided to wait for contract negotiations to conclude and then make the final decision.

They will have to amend the city code, as suggested by city attorney Joe Estes, who noted the code says any animal not claimed within 72 hours was to be euthanized.