Citations, or at least warnings, could be coming for those still violating the mask mandate in Parsons.
The Parsons City Commission approved a mask ordinance in early July to slow the spread of coronavirus during the pandemic. Under the ordinance, businesses and organizations must post signs at entrances warning that masks are required, and businesses must require workers to wear masks if they work in a space accessible to the public. Individuals must wear masks in businesses and other facilities open to the public and at outdoor events when social distancing isn’t possible.
During a Thursday afternoon work session, Police Chief Robert Spinks said there are just a couple of businesses still refusing to comply with the ordinance. He did not name the businesses. The next time police officers check on those businesses, they will enforce the ordinance against anyone in the store who is not in compliance, Spinks said. That means workers, customers and business owners or managers could be warned or ticketed for violating the ordinance.
Violators of the ordinance are first given a warning. Upon their second offense, violators can be ticketed and fined $50, but the fine could be waived if they pay a $15 administrative fee. Each violation after the second could result in a $50 fine plus $90 in court costs. Violators also could be arrested.
So far, only one business owner has been fined for noncompliance. Olson Ace Hardware was in violation of the ordinance by not requiring workers to wear masks and for not displaying a sign telling customers that masks are required per city ordinance.
Parsons police made a sweep through town checking on compliance in businesses in August, but little other enforcement had taken place until recently when police officers again checked on businesses. Spinks’ comments came after Commissioner Leland Crooks asked about compliance, noting that an officer had stopped in at his store, Grand Rental Station.
“The rest of the community, compliance has been well,” Spinks said.
Spinks said the police department has received a small number of reports from the public about people not wearing masks, but by the time officers get to the scene the alleged offender has left.
“We are continuing to see an increase of the level of compliance throughout the community,” Spinks said.
One reason for that, he said, is the increased education and awareness throughout the country of the importance of wearing masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Spinks said the commission should be commended for being ahead of the curve by issuing the mask mandate in July.
Crooks said compared to other Kansas counties, Labette County is doing OK. He noted that the Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Pittsburg has suspended all elective and non-emergent surgeries because of the increase in COVID-19 cases in Crawford County.
“This is not over by a long shot,” Crooks said.
Commissioner Kevin Cruse said a woman talked to him about people not wearing masks in a local business. She was upset about that and also that the business wasn’t making people wear masks. Cruse explained to the woman that the ordinance doesn’t require businesses to enforce the ordinance on customers.
“Mask issue is probably going to be something that is ongoing for a while,” Cruse said.