Village Council talks masks, in-person meetings
- Published: March 14, 2022
At its Monday, March 7 meeting, held virtually via Zoom, Village Council discussed the mask ordinance for the business district, and began a discussion about holding in-person Council meetings.
Only three Council members were present — Council President Brian Housh had a fall prior to the meeting and was rushed to the hospital; Council member Lisa Kreeger was absent.
Village Manager Josué Salmerón gave an overview of the endurance of the ordinance mandating masks in the downtown area, saying that the ordinance is only in effect when COVID-19 transmission levels are medium or high.
“We need to discuss the reality of our low transmission, which no longer requires the mask ordinance to be in place,” he said. “The challenge that we are seeing is that we still have community members who would like those protective measures in place.”
Greene County is experiencing a downward trend in COVID-19 infections. According to a press release from the Greene County Board of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, has updated its measurements for community spread. Because of the downward trend, “Greene County Public Health supports the CDC new Community Level framework,” the press release detailed.
According to the CDCs website, “The COVID-19 community level is determined by the higher of the new admissions and inpatient beds metrics, based on the current level of new cases per 100,000 population in the past 7 days.” Within the CDCs current framework, Greene County has a low community level.
In response to a question from Council Vice President Kevin Stokes, Salmerón said that individual business owners could continue requiring masks within their stores and that YSPD would continue to support business owners by aiding with enforcement of masking policies.
With regard to public meetings, Village Solicitor Breanne Parcels said that the Ohio Legislature will allow for municipalities to hold public meetings virtually through June 30th of 2022. Locally, the Village ordinance says Village Council can hold virtual meetings during any time of declared emergency.
“So it’s really up to Council,” she said. “If we do go back in person, of course, we would take every precaution we could.”
In addition to the precautions needed to hold in-person meetings, Parcels commented on the capacity of Council chambers.
“We’ve had broader participation in some context by meeting remotely because we are able to offer unlimited attendance,” she said. “Even if we didn’t have the pandemic we would still have to comply with the fire codes for our regular meeting room.”
Stokes said that he was not in favor of immediately changing Village meeting policies. He went on to say that hastily changing the policy may be a move Council regrets if infection levels surge.
“I think we should give ourselves a little more time,” he said.
Stokes also said the conversation would need to continue, given the absence of two Council members. He noted that he would like to have more input from Council member Lisa Kreeger, who has a background in medicine.
Both Council members Carmen Brown and Marianne MacQueen said they were comfortable returning to in-person meetings. MacQueen said she believes in-person meetings would be a positive move.
“I think some of the polarization is because we are not meeting in person,” she said. “I think that the sooner we meet in person the better.”
After a comment from Clerk of Council Judy Kintner, Council members discussed the possibility of hybrid meetings. Stokes said he was not in favor of hybrid meetings, but would like for Council members to attend meetings remotely. Kintner said that she is “really opposed” to hybrid meetings.
“We would want to allow an absent Council person to weigh in if we are allowed to do that,” Stokes said.
Parcels said there could be case law in the future that disallows Council members to vote remotely, but they could be allowed to observe the meeting and participate in discussion, which she said happens in other municipalities.
“If our ordinance [which allows Council members to participate remotely] gets challenged in the future, that would be what we go back to,” she said. As the ordinance is structured, “it’s up to the chair to monitor and say that’s what the procedure is going to be.”
In response to a question from the News, Parcels confirmed that there is a possibility that Council would be allowed to attend meetings remotely while the public would be required to attend in person in order to participate in public hearings. Kintner then asked that the discussion be tabled until Council members had time to think about and give input on the policy.
Other business from the March 7 meeting will be covered in a future issue of the News.