When they met Friday, Leavenworth County commissioners expressed frustration that county officials will not be able to implement their plan for easing restrictions related to COVID-19.
Instead, businesses in Leavenworth County will be subject to the requirements of a statewide three-phase plan that was announced Thursday by Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly.
County officials had prepared their own three-phase plan for Leavenworth County believing the governor would grant counties more leeway in pulling back restrictions that have been placed on businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Commissioners had prepared to review the local plan during a special meeting Thursday morning. But they decided to wait until after Kelly announced her statewide plan Thursday.
When commissioners met again Friday, Commissioner Jeff Culbertson said the rules that had been drafted at the county level were less stringent than the governor’s guidelines. But he said county officials are forced to follow the governor’s plan.
Commissioners began the meeting by listening to comments from members of the public. Members of the public were not allowed to attend the meeting in person due to COVID-19 restrictions, so the comments were delivered by telephone.
One of the speakers was Carlos Rivera, who owns Str8 Edge Barber Shop in Leavenworth. Barbershops and hair salons are among the businesses that will not be allowed to reopen during the first phase of the governor’s plan.
The county’s plan would have allowed these businesses to open during the first phase.
Commissioner Mike Stieben made a motion to have a letter prepared to send to the governor urging her to allow personal service businesses such as barbershops to open during the first phase of the statewide plan.
Stieben expressed concern that some people from Leavenworth County may go to Missouri to utilize these types of businesses while businesses in the county have to remain closed.
Commissioner Chad Schimke said it is unlikely such changes will be made before the first phase ends. He suggested sending a letter to the governor asking that the county be allowed to implement its own plan.
Commissioners reached a consensus to have members of the county’s administrative staff draft a letter. County Administrator Mark Loughry said the letter likely will request that county governments be allowed to use local authority to oversee the easing of restrictions.
Commissioners will review the letter when they meet next week.
During Friday’s meeting, commissioners reviewed a document that was prepared by county officials to provide guidance as businesses reopen under the statewide plan.
Leavenworth County Health Officer Jamie Miller said the document is intended to give advice and share best practices.
One part of the county document that sparked questions from commissioners is a suggestion that businesses keep logs of customers.
"It is voluntary," Miller said. But he said it is highly encouraged.
He said such logs can aid the Leavenworth County Health Department in contact tracing as new COVID-19 cases occur.
"The business owners can help," he said.
Miller acknowledged it would be difficult for big box stores to keep logs of customers. But he said small shop owners may be able to keep logs of customers for a 14-day period.
He said the logs would remain at the businesses.
Loughry said commissioners did not need to take action on the document. He said it will be issued to the public through the health officer.