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Council votes to treat massage therapists like professionals

Tuesday night’s City Council work session was all about introduction, review of process, and the standing rules of the Council. The formal City Council meeting started with Mayor-elect Dave Hallback, Councilor member-elect Jeff Rock of Ward 1, Ward 2 Councilor David Bjerkness and Ward 3 Councilor Roger Maki taking the oath of office in the Cloquet City Council chambers in front of a good sized audience, made up of mostly family members and uniformed Cloquet police officers, among others.

In other council business, the City Council approved changes to the massage therapist section of the City Code, ordinance No. 439A.

The changes came about as a result of a letter from a local massage clinic, asking that the city eliminate its requirement that therapists provide a medical certificate from a doctor that the applicant has no “communicable diseases,” defined as a condition communicable via bodily fluids. A reputable business holds no occasion during the course of massage where there is any exchange of bodily fluids; there are few diseases that are communicable through touch alone.  

Stated in a letter to the city from Body Connection Massage Clinic;

“Our privacy would be (and is) compromised severely as these documents are a matter of public record. In an environment where HIPPA is taken very seriously, it seems to us that this requirement borders on being illegal and is unsupportable.”

The second requested change was to eliminate the requirement of providing a social security number on the license renewal application. Also stated in the letter from Body Connection was that they feel as though the prevalence of identity theft should be taken into consideration. They ask that after initial licensing, all references to the applicant’s social security number be deleted.

City Administrator Brian Fritsinger explained to the Council and Mayor that the licensing requirements for professional therapeutic massage in Cloquet were initially drafted at a time when the city was responding to issues related to illicit massage. The purpose of this section of the code is to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the general public.

In response to concerns by licensed therapists, the City has reviewed and made several amendments to clarify requirements. And while the second request wasn’t changed — Social Security Numbers are required by state law for this particular license — a medical certificate from a physician stating that the applicant has no communicable diseases is no longer required. This change does not eliminate protection put in place to address illicit activity, Fritsinger said.

Other changes to code included requiring 500 hours (up from 100) of certified therapeutic massage training and certification which has been recognized and accepted by a national or state professional therapeutic massage organization.

In other matters Tuesday, the Council and Mayor:

  • Approved the Pine Journal as the city’s official newspaper for 2015 for legal notices;

  • Appointed Ward 5 Councilor Steve Langley as acting mayor when Mayor Dave Hallback is not available for meetings;

  • Approved the 2015 City Council meeting calendar, continuing the practice of meeting the first and third Tuesdays of each month;

  • Approved the city’s fees and user charges for 2015, for everything from impound and licensing fees for dogs and cats to pawnbroker fees, transient merchant licenses, liquor sale licenses and costs for a police officer for special events, along with planning and zoning fees and building permits. A complete listing is available on the city’s website.