City Commissioner Rob Gilligan approached Lyon County commissioners on the matter of Emporia’s recently-approved mask mandate during a regularly-scheduled meeting at the courthouse Thursday morning.
Referencing studies in favor of mask use and providing an updated look at the area’s recent rise in COVID-19 cases, Gilligan said he hoped county officials would consider adopting similar enhanced safety measures throughout all Lyon County municipalities and townships.
“[The commission] has obviously had conversations and you’ve been involved in this discussion before,” Gilligan said. “You certainly had to review [Governor Laura Kelly’s executive orders] in July when she made a mandate on a statewide level … You chose to opt out of it based on where our numbers were. You do know our numbers are significantly worse.
“You also know that starting next Thursday, hopefully, a couple thousand plus students will additionally move into our community … We know that concentrations of people is what increases the risk and the spread of this disease. Now, the disease may not have negative impacts as severely in younger populations, but it does lead to spread in our community … I’m here today to ask the county commission to reconsider their decision in early July of opting Lyon County out of the mask ordinance.”
Submitting his recommendation during the meeting’s public comment period, Gilligan left shortly after and commissioners did not entertain any official discussion on the matter. As the meeting advanced to its board reports session however, County Attorney Marc Goodman voiced his displeasure with the request, viewing it as a way for city officials to “force the county’s hand.”
“I’m sorry, but I just think it was uncalled for,” Goodman said. “I realize it was public comment, but it was upmanship and maneuvering that’s uncalled for at these times. That’s all I’ve got to say.”
Neither fully agreeing or disagreeing with the city’s decision, Commissioner Scott Briggs attempted to provide more insight into the county’s original decision to reject July’s statewide mask mandate.
“Some of that decision was made on an economic basis, too,” he said. “With mask wearing, we talked about how the communities and businesses are affected, with some businesses having certain mandates and some not ... To me, what the city did was probably the right thing to do. It’s going to make the parents of the kids that are going to university feel a little bit safer.”
Complete information on the city’s current mask mandate can be found at www.emporiagazette.com/free/article_61682b36-d757-11ea-b75a-4f2a4e5353b1.html. The subject may be approached during future meetings of the county commission, but is not currently on any set meeting agenda.
In other business Thursday, commissioners unanimously re-approved a $250,000 allocation to Emporia State University to be used in the funding of student scholarships.
“About six years ago, [Former ESU President Michael] Shonrock came to the commission and we asked him a simple question: ‘What does Emporia State need?’” Commissioner Rollie Martin said. “He answered the question by saying they needed scholarships.”
Moving forward, the money will be used to aid local students — with priority given to residents of Lyon County and Emporia — in the pursuit of all their academic goals and future career aspirations.
“When we first started this program, one of the city commissioners said that for each student we can get to Emporia State, it’s like bringing in one job to the town or the county,” Martin said. “We’d like to keep things that way.”