Leavenworth will not renew mask order

Ordinance to expire March 31

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

It appears the city of Leavenworth’s mask ordinance will be allowed to expire at the end of the month.

Leavenworth city commissioners met Tuesday for a study session. The mask ordinance was not on the agenda. But commissioners discussed whether to place the issue on the agenda for a meeting next week in order to extend the ordinance.

A majority of the commissioners said they were in favor of taking no action and allowing the ordinance to expire.

City commissioners initially approved an ordinance requiring people to wear face coverings in public spaces in the city in November. They voted to extend the order in January by passing a new ordinance. That ordinance extended the order through March 31.

The ordinances were approved in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Mayor Nancy Bauder said Tuesday that the COVID-19 positivity rate in Leavenworth County has seen a huge improvement since the first mask ordinance was approved.

City Commissioner Mike Griswold asked if there is a benefit of having a short discussion next week about whether to extend the order.

Commissioner Jermaine Wilson, who previously voted against the mask ordinances, said he was in favor of allowing the order to expire.

City Commissioner Camalla Leonhard said the “city has played an important role filling the gap the county created.”

She was referring to the fact that commissioners in the county government have opted the county out of a mask mandate issued by the governor.

While there is no countywide mask order, the cities of Leavenworth, Lansing and Tonganoxie have enacted mask ordinances.

Leonhard noted there has been a significant decline in the number of new COVID-19 cases being reported, and she said people are being vaccinated for the virus.

“I say let it expire,” she said of the city’s mask ordinance.

City Commissioner Mark Preisinger said he believes commissioners should further evaluate the issue.

“I think it’s still up for discussion,” he said.

Preisinger said he wants to know what the city’s community partners will do.

“I wonder what the city of Lansing is going to do,” he said.

Lansing’s mask ordinance also is scheduled to expire March 31.

Preisinger said Fort Leavenworth is not ending its mask requirement.

He said the city of Leavenworth does not have what he referred to as draconian measures such as limiting capacity in businesses or limiting business hours.

Preisinger said he believes the city’s mask order has been successful. He said it gives cover to business owners who want to require masks in their establishments.

“I don’t see the negative of it,” he said.

Griswold said he supported the comments made by Preisinger. Griswold said he would like to evaluate what has taken place since commissioners last extended the mask order.

Bauder said about 20% of the people in the community have been vaccinated for COVID-19. She believes a lot more people will be vaccinated by March 31.

“And I would be OK with just letting it expire,” she said.

Bauder said commissioners can adopt a new ordinance in the future if conditions worsen.

Griswold said he is OK with allowing the ordinance to expire at this point. But he wants to continue to monitor things.

He said commissioners may have reason to readdress the matter in the future.

“I hope that is not the case,” he said.

Bauder said she encourages people to continue to wear masks.

And Griswold said he encourages people to practice social distancing and get vaccinated.

Bauder said it appeared there was a consensus to allow the ordinance to expire.

“So we don’t have to do anything,” she said.

Preisinger asked if a mask requirement for the Leavenworth City Hall building will remain in place after the ordinance expires.

City Manager Paul Kramer said he makes the determination regarding mask orders for city buildings in consultation with the City Commission.

Preisinger said business owners also can continue to enforce mask requirements for their establishments.

“They absolutely have a right to do that,” Bauder said.

Kramer said he has reached out to businesses such as Walmart, The Home Depot and Dillons to try to determine how long they will require masks in their stores after March 31 per their corporate policies.

In other business

The Leavenworth City Commission:

• Received an update from the city’s rental property coordinator, Lawrence Lavine.

• Received a briefing about a process to amend development regulations.

• Received a report about efforts to improve the downtown area.