Commissioners to decide fate of citywide mask mandate

The Manhattan Mercury, Kan.
·2 min read

Mar. 13—Manhattan city commissioners on Tuesday will decide the fate of the citywide mask mandate.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, but only 29 people are allowed to attend. It will air on Cox Cable Channel 3, the Manhattan city government website and Facebook.

City administrators will present three options: extending the ordinance until May 16 or another date; extending the mask ordinance until repealed by the commission at a later date; or allowing the ordinance to expire on April 1.

If commissioners go with the last option, the city will have to adopt a separate ordinance for Manhattan Regional Airport as the Federal Aviation Administration requires masks in airports and on planes.

The city commission passes ordinances with two readings. Typically, the second reading is just a formality, because commissioners don't often change their votes.

Earlier this month, commissioners voted 4-1 to extend the citywide mask-wearing requirement; commissioner Mark Hatesohl cast the opposing vote.

However, Mayor Wynn Butler and Commissioner Aaron Estabrook expressed an interest in tying the length of the city's mandate to the Riley County Health Department mandate. That sets up Tuesday's second reading as the crucial decision moment.

If the commission selects either of the first options, the commission can amend the ordinance later to sunset once RCHD announces its expiration date, officials said. RCHD Director Julie Gibbs and other county officials plan to review the countywide mandate at the end of this month. Alternatively, the commission can repeal the citywide mask ordinance after RCHD announces the expiration date. Officials said commissioners could take these actions during a regular or special city meeting.

The commission also will:

— Consider rezoning a planned unit development for the creation of a rectory and off-street parking for the St. Isidore's Catholic Student Center. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Salina bought an apartment building Roma at 1826 Anderson Ave., knocked it down and intends to construct a rectory and add off-street parking. The property is adjacent to St. Isidore's at 711 Denison Ave. A rectory is typically where a priest lives, provided by a church organization.

— Look at amending an ordinance and the final development plan to allow for more window signs at businesses in the Westloop Shopping Center.

— Look at amending a planned unit development for the Bluemont Hotel in Aggieville to allow for alcohol sales in the commercial spaces available for lease. The ground floor of the building has commercial spaces available for tenants.