NEW ULM - The New Ulm City Council voted unanimously to reinstate the cigarette license for the New Ulm Smokes 4 Less with conditions Tuesday.
The Council denied a renewal of the license on June 5. Councilor Les Schultz, who is the director of the Brown County Probation Department, expressed concerns that the store was selling herbal incense laced with stimulants with the purpose of having it used as a drug by customers.
The license was renewed with the conditions that incense and synthetic cannabinoids would not be sold on the premises. The store owner accepted the terms.
After the meeting, Schultz said he very pleased with the store accepting the City's demands.
The agenda noted that the denial of license renewal may have been easy to challenge in court if the store owners had decided to fight the action. A key part of a potential challenge would have been that the chemicals in the herbal incense may not be an exact match for the state's recently banned list of synthetic cannabinoids, thus making the incense technically legal.
Schultz said he felt the City of New Ulm could have made a strong case either way, citing the City codes on cigarette license.
Smokes 4 Less store manager Tasha Voigt, who didn't speaking during the public comment section, said she was pleased they regained their license. However, she said she felt it was extremely unfair of the City to put conditions on the licenses.
"We haven't done anything illegal. If we had, there would have been cops in our store," said Voigt, "Most people used [the incense] the right way. Some decided to smoke it despite the label. We can't control something like that."
Voigt said the herbal incense was approximately the store's third highest selling product. She said the store will take a substantial financial loss due to being unable to sell the product.
"[The City] is putting [hardships] on only us. We haven't done anything we're not allowed to do," said Voigt.
The new cigarette license will begin after the current license ends on June 30.
The Council discussed options for repairing the downtown sidewalk inlaid bricks and concrete paver crosswalks.
All the downtown sidewalks and pavers are currently facing degrees of needing to be replaced. However, the cost estimates on the project deal specifically with one sidewalk and one paver section that need immediate attention. The designs on the sidewalks and pavers are from the Streetscape city planning of the 1980s.
The Council's options for the sidewalk are to replaced with plain concrete or concrete that has a brick or stamped design. The paver options considered asphalt or stamped concrete for replacement. Replacement cost of the sidewalk and paver with patterns was estimated at $23,000 while the no pattern was estimated at $15,000.
Key parts of the discussion sought to determine the balance between cost of the project and whether maintaining the look of downtown sidewalks mattered. The Council also discussed whether to specially assess the cost because the Street Department lacked sufficient funds for the project. The decision was postponed to a later Council meeting.
The Council discussed additional options and decided to settle on using the cheaper option of plain concrete while having the concrete colored to maintain some of the aesthetics. City officials were instructed to bring back more specific numbers on the cost of the project.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at email@example.com)