The city’s mask mandate likely will be extended for a few more months.
In the regular meeting set for Monday evening, the Parsons City Commission will consider a resolution that would extend the mask ordinance to May 17. The commission would have the option to repeal the ordinance before that date or extend it beyond then.
The commission approved an ordinance on July 6 mandating people to wear masks in buildings accessible to the public. The ordinance also requires businesses and organizations to post a notice at their entrances that masks must be worn inside. Employers also must make their workers wear masks when they are in areas accessible to the public or when they can’t socially distance from each other. First offenders can be warned. Following the warning, violators can be fined $50, but that can be waived by paying a $15 administrative fee. Upon the third violation, offenders can be fined $50 and must pay $90 in court costs.
The original ordinance expired on Oct. 1. The commission approved another ordinance to extend the mandate to Dec. 7. That ordinance also allowed the commissioners to extend the mandate by resolution. On Dec. 7, the commission extended the mandate to March 1.
Each extension has been easily approved after only brief discussion, and the commission again seems favorable toward another extension.
During a Thursday work session, Commissioner Jeff Perez cited information in a letter of support from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment that stated areas of Kansas under a mask mandate have reversed COVID-19 infection trends while those that aren’t have seen daily increases.
“Face coverings remain our cheapest, best strategy for curbing a catastrophic winter and keeping our businesses and schools open,” KDHE epidemiologist Farah Ahmed said in the letter.
A recent estimate indicated that 115,000 lives would be saved nationwide if masks were widely used, Ahmed said.
Commissioner Leland Crooks said the end of the pandemic may be near, with vaccines becoming more widely available, so perhaps the mandate won’t need to be extended beyond May.
Commissioner Tom Shaw said he knows five people, four of whom lived in Parsons, who died from COVID-19.
“I don’t like wearing a mask, but I don’t want to have five more names on that list, and if I can wear a mask and help prevent that, I would vote yes for doing it,” Shaw said.
The commission discussed extending the mandate to June 1 but then decided to set the end date near the end of the school year. The commission could then decide if the ordinance needs to be extended into the summer. On Thursday, the city staff and commission thought the end of the school year would be near May 17, but Parsons USD 503 started the school year late, pushing the scheduled end of the year to May 28.
In another matter on Monday, the commissioners will hear presentations from city staff covering 2020 activity in the fire department, water treatment, water distribution, wastewater treatment, wastewater collection, sanitation, Lake Parsons, public works, streets, parks, Oakwood Cemetery, Tri-City Airport and the police department.
The commissioners will meet at 6 p.m. Monday in the commission room at the Parsons Municipal Building. The meeting will be livestreamed at livestream.com/parsonskansas.
In other business the commissioners will consider:
— Approving payment of $58,909.89 to Heck & Wicker Construction Inc. for work on the 16th Street improvement project that includes the widening of the 16th and Main Street intersection.
— Approving a change order on a contract with 911 Direct for a police dispatch center upgrade. The change order would add a partial repair to the electronic door actuator system. The city sought bids on the replacement of the current electronic door system and a new fire alarm system, but commissioners didn’t approve that work because it was estimated at $100,000. The contractor has found a partial fix for the door system that will cost $11,470.
— Approving an agreement with Dr. Eva Dudek, owner of Parsons Pet Hospital, for the boarding of loose dogs and cats captured by the police department. The previous agreement has expired, but both parties have been operating under its terms. The new contract would increase the cost of boarding from $15 a day for cats to $17 and from $20 a day for dogs to $22. The agreement also would increase the euthanization charge from $50 to $55 for dogs and from $35 to $40 for cats.
— Approving a special use permit for property in Flynn Industrial Park to allow a cement plant to operate in a heavy industrial district (I-2). The move, which is recommended by the Parsons Planning Commission, would allow Ed O’Brien to open Ed’s Ready Mix on land he is buying from the city.