City of Parsons to vote on mandatory mask ordinance

Ordinance could require businesses to turn patrons away who don't wear a mask

PARSONS, Kan. –

UPDATE: The Parsons City Commission has approved an amended mask ordinance.

After a lot of discussion and hearing from many members of the public, the commission made several changes to the originally proposed ordinance.

The biggest changes relate to how businesses will be impacted, and how the ordinance will be enforced.

Business owners will not be fined if customers don’t follow the ordinance within their establishment. They will, however, have to put up signs that say they require customers wear masks, and all of their employees will have to wear a mask when they are in an area accessible to the public. Business owners will also have the ability to remove a customer from their business — and if the customer doesn’t comply, the person could be charged with criminal trespass. The city also discussed purchasing thousands of masks, that business owners can give to their customers who don’t have their own.

When it comes to enforcement, the commission decided to take a more lenient approach. If a resident doesn’t follow the ordinance, then the first offense would bring about a warning and education. The second offense would bring a 15 dollar fine, but there wouldn’t be any charges. On the third offense, then there would be a 50 dollar fine, and they would be criminally charged for not following a city ordinance.

The city commission also included a 14 day grace period, where there won’t be any enforcement, so that residents and business owners can get used to the change. The ordinance will be in effect until October 1st, unless the city commission shortens or extends it.

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As a bar and grill owner in a small town, the last couple of months have been pretty rough for Ben Daugherty.

“They (sales) were probably down by about forty percent for two months straight. Kind of put a burden on everybody,” says Ben Daugherty, the owner of Ballers Sports Bar and Grill in Parsons.

Daugherty and the rest of the people at Ballers shifted to curbside and delivery, so they didn’t lose all of their business during the stay at home order, but losing that much income for that long can be devastating.

“We’re just now still trying to build back up from the shortfall we felt a couple of months ago,” says Daugherty.

That’s a big reason why he doesn’t like the idea of having an ordinance that would require him to turn people away if they aren’t wearing a mask.

“I think it should be at very most the business owner’s decision,” says Daugherty.

The Parsons City Commission is considering an ordinance that would, in its current form, require residents wear masks in public places like shops and restaurants. This is separate from the Kansas Governor’s Executive Order, and would be enforceable by law enforcement since it would be a local city ordinance. In that regard, the ordinance would require that business owners require their customers wear a mask, and refuse service if they don’t. If the business owner doesn’t enforce the ordinance, then they could face a 50 dollar fine per violation. But, Public Information Officer Jim Zaleski says the commission could change that.

“We’re looking at different ways to slow the second spike of COVID, and keep businesses open. What you’re really gonna see I think is some type of a compromise to where the business owners are gonna be responsible for letting people know. But I really don’t feel that the commission wants to put that onus or that penalty onto the business,” says Zaleski.

“It would be a negative impact one way or the other,” says Daugherty. “Whether I try to enforce it and lose customers, or I don’t enforce it and I get fined.”

The Labette County Commission voted to opt-out of the Governor’s Executive Order at their morning meeting on Monday (7/6).

There has been 66 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the county.

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