The city of Parsons likely will continue offering face masks for free to local businesses this year, but the marketing campaign to encourage compliance with the mask mandate is probably over.
With coronavirus relief funds given to the city nearly exhausted and no more seen on the horizon, Jim Zaleski, economic development director, asked commissioners for direction on the fight against the spread of COVID-19 during a Monday meeting.
Zaleski said the city has given out over 34,000 masks and has about 1,000 left. The city started giving masks to businesses around the time the commission passed an ordinance that mandates masks be worn in buildings accessible to the public.
Zaleski also asked commissioners if they wanted to continue the marketing campaign, although there is no budget for it.
Mayor Tom Shaw said he hopes the city can continue making masks available to businesses and organizations to help them keep costs down. Making the disposable masks available to businesses also allows the public to get free masks.
“If we can find a way to have funding to keep masks available, I think that would be a really important thing for us to do,” Shaw said.
As for marketing, Shaw said by now everyone knows that masks are important in the fight against COVID-19 and have either decided they will follow the mandate or ignore it.
Commissioner Jeff Perez was interested in finding funds to help people get vaccinated. He is concerned that vaccination isn’t going as quickly as it could across the state. Zaleski said there is no money available for cities to help in vaccination, but he will continue to watch closely how much Kansas will get in the next round of federal aid and if any of it will filter down to the city level.
While the city won’t likely pay for any more advertising, Zaleski said KLKC Radio has agreed to continue running commercials for free as public service announcements.
Also on Monday, the commission voiced no objections to a plan by City Manager Debbie Lamb to continue offering employees up to 80 hours of paid leave, without using any sick time, if they have to quarantine or isolate because of COVID-19. A requirement for the city to offer the 80 hours under the Family Medical Leave Act expired in 2020. Lamb said it wouldn’t be fair for employees to not get 80 hours of paid leave only because they came in contact with the coronavirus in 2021 instead of in 2020.
The city will discontinue the practice of paying workers two-thirds of their pay while making them only use one-third of a sick day for each day they are gone because of COVID-19 after their 80 hours are up. Employees will now have to use their sick days in such instances.
In other business the commission:
— Approved a firefighting contract for James and Priscilla Lubbers, 1463 520th Road.
— Heard a concern from Parsons resident Ryan Robertson about a “huge” hump in the new sidewalk near 16th Street and Washington Avenue. The sidewalk is part of the ongoing 16th Street improvement project that will add turn lanes at 16th and Main Street. Robertson also reported significant damage to the 2500 block of Corning.
— Met in executive session for 10 minutes to discuss nonelected personnel concerning contractionual services performed by city employees for Labette County. City Attorney Ross Albertini, Lamb, Zaleski and Laura Moore, community development director, were included in the closed session. Zaleski and Moore have been working for the county in the administration of coronavirus relief funds.