County schedules special meeting to address state mask order

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

Leavenworth County commissioners will have a special meeting Thursday afternoon to consider whether to opt the county out of a new statewide mask mandate.

The meeting is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the Leavenworth County Courthouse.

Commissioners have voted in the past to exempt Leavenworth County from the governor’s mask orders.

The governor’s previous executive orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic expire Wednesday as a result of a new state law dealing with emergency management.

Gov. Laura Kelly has announced plans to issue a new executive order Thursday requiring people to wear face coverings in public spaces across Kansas. And commissioners scheduled the special meeting in anticipation of that order.

Commissioners agreed to have the special meeting when they met Wednesday for their regular weekly meeting.

Regardless of what action commissioners take Thursday, there is a chance the governor's order could be struck down by state legislators.

Under the new state emergency management law, executive orders from the governor can be revoked by the Kansas Legislature or a legislative coordinating council.

County Administrator Mark Loughry noted that a city of Leavenworth ordinance requiring people to wear masks in public spaces was expiring at the end of Wednesday.

With the expiration of the ordinance, Loughry said the wearing of masks would be recommended for employees who cannot maintain six feet of separation at county facilities in the city of Leavenworth. But it will no longer be required.

Loughry said visitors to county facilities such as the Leavenworth County Courthouse will still be required to wear masks.

Loughry said the Leavenworth County Health Department administered first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to 1,850 people last week. He said county officials hope to continue to administer about 2,000 first doses per week.

The Health Department also continues to administer second doses to local residents.

Loughry said he believes about 35% of Leavenworth County residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. He said the Health Department has not vaccinated 35% of the county’s population. But he noted other entities in the county, including the Eisenhower VA Medical Center and Fort Leavenworth, have been administering COVID-19 vaccines.

“So we believe we’re at least at 35%, maybe more,” Loughry said. “Within a month, we should be at the 50% range at least, I think.”

Commissioner Vicky Kaaz said she has heard nothing but positive feedback regarding the vaccination clinics operated by the Leavenworth Health Department at the Riverfront Community Center.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Commission Chairman Mike Smith read a proclamation that proclaims next week as COVID-19 Heroes Week in Leavenworth County.

Smith said he is impressed by the way county employees and others in the county have continued to carry out their daily activities during the pandemic.

“I’m so impressed with everybody,” he said.

In other business

The Leavenworth County Commission:

• Appointed John Jacobson, Tim Smith, Dale Thomas, Zachary Stoltenberg and John Zimbelman to serve on the new Building Codes Appeals Board.

Commissioner Jeff Culbertson abstained from the motion. The other four commissioners voted in favor of the appointments.

• Approved amendments to the Leavenworth County zoning and subdivision regulations.

• Approved the renewal of a special use permit for CG Auto & Diesel, 22578 Millwood Road.

The SUP was approved by a 4-1 vote. Commissioner Vicky Kaaz voted against the motion.

• Met behind closed doors in executive session for about 20 minutes for consultation with an attorney.