WE APPRECIATE YOUR SUPPORT DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

We continue to make our coronavirus coverage free to everyone at www.vnews.com/coronavirus. If you believe local news is essential, please consider subscribing or making a donation today. Learn more at the links below.


Lebanon City Council expands mask mandate proposal

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/7/2020 9:31:59 PM
Modified: 8/7/2020 9:31:48 PM

LEBANON — City officials opted this week to expand Lebanon’s proposed mask mandate to include sidewalks and trails after some argued that people utilizing most public spaces, not just those indoors, should wear a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The City Council voted, 7-0, at its meeting Wednesday night to add language requiring masks on the Mascoma River Greenway, Northern Rail Trail and other outdoor spaces to an emergency ordinance that could be adopted next week following a public hearing.

City Councilor Bruce Bronner abstained from the vote, while Mayor Tim McNamara was absent from the meeting.

If approved, the new rules would require members of the public to cover their noses and mouths while inside businesses and government buildings, while on public transportation, and while waiting in line.

Those outdoors will be allowed to forgo a mask “when social distancing of at least six feet from non-household members” is possible, according to a draft ordinance posted on the city’s website.

A public hearing on the mandate is scheduled for next week.

City Councilor Karen Liot Hill, who led the charge to require masks outside, said she’s happy to see people exercising and enjoying Lebanon’s public spaces.

But, she said, those who refuse to cover their faces make her uncomfortable and could be deterring others from the same amenities.

“I don’t think that their personal choice to engage in that kind of activity should infringe on my ability to also engage in my fitness activity in the great outdoors,” she told colleagues at the meeting, which was streamed on teleconferencing software.

However, Assistant Mayor Clifton Below wondered whether there’s a need to mandate face masks outside.

While out walking his dog, he hasn’t encountered problems social distancing, even downtown where traffic tends to be heavier.

“I think this is where we’re going to tend to get people rebelling if we’re saying, ‘Even when you’re outdoors on a trail or out for a walk, you need to be wearing a mask if you come within 6 feet of anybody else,’ ” Below said.

“I’m not sure we want to be the community that litigates that particular issue of masks being required outdoors,” he added. He ultimately voted for the measure.

Bronner also voiced concern that an outdoor mandate could prove too difficult to enforce.

Under the ordinance, Lebanon’s police would be responsible for handling violations. And those who refuse to put on a mask after being asked could face a $100 fine for a first offense and $250 for any subsequent offense.

But City Manager Shaun Mulholland said the goal is to educate people, not issue citations.

“The fine numbers are what they are as a deterrence, so I really don’t see a whole lot of fines being issued here. Hopefully none,” he said.

Other members of the City Council framed the mask mandate as one that will benefit public health.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all Americans wear a face mask when leaving the house to prevent droplets that could carry the coronavirus from traveling into the air.

Public health officials in the Twin States have echoed that call, with Vermont requiring masks be worn in public spaces.

“This is a global fight that’s on our doorstep,” City Councilor Sue Prentiss said. “We all have a role in this fight against COVID-19 and these common-sense measures we’ve seen ... they really matter the most.”

A public hearing on Lebanon’s mask mandate is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday. Instructions for accessing the meeting, which will be held via teleconferencing software, can be found at Lebanonnh.gov/Live.

If the measure is approved, Lebanon would join Enfield and Hanover in requiring masks in public places. Both of those neighboring towns adopted similar ordinances earlier this week.

The Plainfield Selectboard on Wednesday also voted to hold a public hearing at its next meeting, on Aug. 19, to approve a mask ordinance as well.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.




Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784
603-298-8711

 

© 2020 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy