Some Form of Mask Mandate Likely at Aug. 4 Meeting
Last updated 8/4/2020 at 12:39pm
The city's proposed emergency face mask mandate doesn't have the four votes needed to pass, but Lake Wales City Commissioners who support it have a backup plan at their Aug. 4 meeting.
Once the emergency mandate is voted down, the commission will consider a regular ordinance that needs only three votes, but wouldn't go into effect until after a second reading at their Aug. 18 meeting. Rather than expire in 30 days, the regular ordinance would remain in force until repealed by another ordinance.
The "emergency" ordinance that would go into effect immediately expires in 30 days, but requires a four-vote super majority to pass. City commissioners Al Goldstein and Curtis Gibson oppose the mandate, both saying they are satisfied with the current resolution that encourages mask wearing, and doesn't fine businesses that don't enforce a mandate.
Commissioner Terrye Howell said while she is still not happy with how the proposed ordinance dictates to businesses how they must operate, it is the only option currently being considered that could put a mask mandate in place. Mayor Eugene Fultz and Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson both are on record supporting a mask mandate.
"No mandate is not even on the table. There's going to be a mandate," said Howell, acknowledging she is hearing from people who think the government should not be telling them what to do. "I have no problem being in that position if lives are being saved and people's health is not being compromised."
Howell said she would prefer the emergency ordinance, since after 30 days if conditions improved the commission could choose not to renew it. But she said the ordinance that could be left in place for a long period of time may be her only option.
"I'm worrying that people who are not wearing a mask can be hurting people. I think we need something," Howell said. "If there's no one left to come shop in your shop, you won't have business anyway."
The proposed ordinance gives police the power to issue a warning for first offense, a $50 fine for second offense and a $100 fine for third offense. It applies not only to the individual refusing to wear a mask, but the business person if they are not making "reasonable efforts" to get customers to comply, including posting signs and making announcements about the mandate, requiring employees to wear masks and asking patrons to wear them.
The ordinance has several exemptions, including children under age eight, people with health conditions, and those eating, drinking or exercising while maintaining social distance.
The ordinance says: "It is the intent of this Ordinance to seek voluntary compliance with the provisions contained herein and to educate and warn of the dangers of non-compliance," but it says if voluntary compliance is not achieved then, as a last resort, the enforcement and fines will be used.