Shawnee City Commission approves face-covering ordinance
July 23, 2020
During a Thursday night special meeting, the Shawnee City Commission voted 6-0 in favor of enacting an ordinance that will require masks to be worn in indoor public spaces.
Despite not having an allotted time for public comments, at least 25 members of the public were present at the meeting. Some wore masks, and others did not, with both groups largely self-segregating to opposite sides of the commission chamber.
The ordinance will go into effect on July 27 at 12 a.m. and will remain in effect until it expires on September 30 at midnight.
According to the ordinance, a first offense will not result in a citation so long as the individual complies with requests to put on a mask or leave the public area. If they do not comply or are found to be in violation a second time, the ordinance carries a potential penalty that shall not exceed $9. For a third or subsequent violation, offenders may face a fine of up to $100 and will have to appear in municipal court.
Shawnee City Manager Chance Allison said the ordinance would be enforced using an education-first approach.
"I think this is probably one of the more important areas, is violations and penalties," Allison said.
He said officers wouldn't be issuing citations for a first offense but will offer the violator a face covering. According to the ordinance, if the individual refuses to take the provided face covering, they have the option of leaving the indoor public area. If they refuse to leave the location and refuse to wear a mask, they may be issued a citation, even if it is their first offense.
Allison said enforcement officers would be ready to educate the public on the importance of wearing a face covering. The ordinance specifies that Shawnee Police officers, Development Services Department Inspectors, and Pottawatomie County Health Department inspectors will be enabled to enforce the order.
The ordinance also comes attached with a list of exceptions. Included in the list are persons under 11 years of age, restaurant patrons while eating or drinking, and individuals engaged in cardio exercise or competitive sporting activities. Additionally, the city will not require masks to be worn by people at work who do not have any face-to-face interactions with the public.
Masks will also not be required where they are not feasible. Specific examples of such locations listed in the ordinance include swimming pools, splash parks, or where receiving dental or medical services.
Churches and schools also got special exemptions. Places of worship will not be forced to require masks, provided people from different households maintain social distance of at least six feet apart. Masks will not be required inside private or public schools unless the school requires them.
Finally, the ordinance exempts persons with a mental or medical disability from having to wear face coverings. Individuals who fall into this category who are still issued citations have a defense written into the ordinance. In the event that such an individual is issued a citation, they may provide documentation from a physician verifying that they should not be wearing a face covering as a defense against the violation.
The ordinance was initially written in such a way that it would have become effective immediately after the commission passed it. Commissioner Bob Weaver motioned to pass the ordinance as presented, but Commissioner Darren Rutherford offered an amendment to the motion to push back the effective start date.
"I would accept that. I think that's a reasonable request," Weaver said.
No other amendments were made to the ordinance before the vote to adopt it.
Prior to adopting the ordinance, the city commissioners discussed their positions on the issue.
Commissioner Ben Salter said the public's engagement with this issue had been tremendous. He said he had received about 52 emails from constituents, with the majority being in favor of face-coverings.
"I know this situation has been the most emails that I've received in the three years that I've been on the council," Salter said.
Although some constituents had been calling several times a day in opposition to face coverings, he said they were only counted once in his tally.
Commissioner Travis Flood said he had agonized over the decision of how to vote on the issue. He said parents were struggling with the decision of whether or not to send kids back to school, and whether the schools would be safe.
"I don't like these silly things, I wish we could throw them down and go on," Flood said. "But I know that sometimes I have to do what's best for me and my family and the people I love whether I like it or not."
Mayor Ed Bolt said no matter how the commission voted, some residents would be upset. He said the curve was definitely bending in the wrong direction.
Bolt said local business owners were struggling, and masks were preferable to the possibility of a future shutdown.
"If we have to close down again, we will probably not be coming back," Bolt said he had been told by local business owners.
He mentioned that at Monday night's meeting, concerns had been raised about people with disabilities or medical conditions.
"Those people are not going to be subject to this rule," Bolt said.
To read the entire draft of the ordinance, please click on the link below. Please not on page 3, 15-12 the highlighted area indicates the known change that will be made to the ordinance. The effective date will be 12 a.m. Monday morning.