Mask ordinance fails in Beloit
The major item on the Beloit City Council agenda on Wednesday night was the consideration of Ordinance 2283 – the Mask Wearing Mandate, composed by City Attorney Katie Schroeder. This ordinance was offered in response to the continual rise in Covid-19 virus infections in Mitchell County and North Central Kansas. Provisions for not wearing a mask were similar to the ordinance written in July with some changes including the wearing of a mask needed if individuals could not remain the social distance of the needed six feet. If one can remain the six foot distance outside, masks would not be required. Ages 10 years and younger would be excluded from wearing a masks and the ordinance was set to end on Jan. 6 for further review.
Along with the ordinance, a scale of increasing fines for violation of the ordinance was included. The first citation would be $25, the second $50 and the third infraction would be $100. This would be enforced by the City of Beloit police department and the Municipal Court.
While the council agreed an ordinance of some sort should be in effect, the inclusion of fines was a point of contention. Some councilors believed citizens would voluntarily comply with an ordinance. Others felt it would need to have some teeth to enforce compliance. With arguments provided by both sides the ordinance was called for a vote.
Those voting not to adopt the ordinance included Tony Gengler, Todd Adolph, and Lee McMillian while those voting to enforce the ordinance were Andrew Grabon, Jamie Meier and Matt Otte. With the vote tied at 3-3, Mayor Tom Naasz voted no and the masks ordinance failed 4-3.
Naasz had expressed earlier that it would be hard for his business to turn away a customer because they didn't want to wear a mask. McMillan asked if businesses would have a right to call the authorities if necessary to come enforce the issue.
"Yes", said Schroeder. "But I would hope it wouldn't come down to that. Our officers are busy and they can only respond as needed or when available, but a complaint can be made."
Grabon stressed the point that Salina had been doing the mandate for months without problems. Cloud county just issued a mandate and Garden City is doing as well. "Honestly, it is like wearing a seat belt," said Grabon. "It is a law."
"While I am disappointed in the outcome of tonight's vote, I continue to appreciate and respect the opinions and reasons for others' views," said Councilman Andrew Grabon. "It is my hope that the fact that a mask mandate was back on our city's agenda this evening will reinforce the seriousness of the current Covid-19 health situation our community, country and world is facing; as well as further encourage individuals to wear a mask for the safety of others and themselves."
The discussions ended with the fail to enforce a masks mandate.
– In further agenda items, Rabe gave the council an update on the proposed North Walnut street improvement project. This project was first discussed in 2018. The council gave approval for Schwab-Eaton to progress with preliminary blueprints to improve the road from the curves east of the football field north to Highway 24. Rabe believes plans could be completed by early May for the council to exam.
– Rabe updated the council on the water treatment plant timelines. He was given a tour last week of the inside of the Glen Elder Dam. "It was impressive and I was able to see the part of Waconda Lake that most don't get to see."
– Work is progressing on the Sutter Room acoustic improvement project. The tiles will be cut and then brought to Beloit to be installed.
– The Safe Routes to School project has finished the design phase and will be soon be let for bids. Rabe expects the work to begin this spring. This is the final segment of the original plans from some years back
–The expected sale of the property at 400 N. Mill fell through after more items were found that need further work than expected. The property will now be put up for sale again.
– Solomon Valley Economic Development Director, Heather Hartman, reported on November being “Match Month.” Any money donated to the Community Foundation will be met two times from the Hansen Foundation. She also spoke about the CDBG CV $132,000 grant money awarded to affected businesses by the pandemic. This was handled through the North Central Regional Planning Commission and the CDBG CV committee.
The Beloit City Council conducted their Wednesday meeting via Zoom with all members in attendance through online viewing.