A citywide mask mandate will remain in effect through Oct. 21 following a decision by Emporia City Commissioners Wednesday night.
City Attorney Christina Montgomery said no changes had been made to the language of the mandate, other than its expiration date.
The mandate, which was passed unanimously, requires a mask or other face covering that covers both the nose and mouth to be worn in indoor and outdoor public spaces when social distancing is not possible. It applies to all businesses, organizations and non-profits located within city limits, including all employees, visitors, customers, members and non-members.
“If you look at our state numbers, obviously Kansas isn’t doing great overall,” Vice-Mayor Rob Gilligan said. “Lyon County seems to be holding steady by comparison. It seems that our urban centers and our communities that host colleges are seeing the greatest brunt of the last few weeks.”
Gilligan said the mandate was a “positive” for the community in the face of something none of the city commissioners have ever faced before.
“This is what leadership is all about,” he said. “This is why we’ve been asked to play this role and I’m glad that the city commission has taken upon ourselves to work on behalf of public health in our community.”
Gilligan said one just needed to look at the data to know that masks do help slow the spread of COVID-19.
“Masks are a mitigating factor and it may not be the ‘silver bullet’ — it may not end everything — but it’s a simple request of a citizen so we can help stop the spread,” he said. “We’ve now crossed the threshold of 20 citizens of Lyon County who have lost their lives this year due to COVID-19. That’s a significant number to me and that’s something we should be cognizant of and that being a risk to our community. The long-term effects of this disease are still unknown across all ages and groups. I think it’s a simple request to ask people to wear masks in public.”
As before, the ordinance does not include private residential or private office or workspaces that are closed to customers and public visitors.
It also continues to include exceptions for children ages 5 and under, people with medical conditions or disability that make mask wearing a difficulty, the hearing impaired, people for whom wearing a face covering would create risks at work, people seated at restaurants or other establishments serving food and beverages that maintain 6-feet of distance between customers, athletes engaged in sports activity, court-related proceedings, persons engaged in professional or recreational activities that have been deemed by public health that masks cannot be worn for safety reasons.
Water service for multi-family dwellings
Commissioners also approved an ordinance to amend city code pertaining to monthly service charges applied to water and sewer services to multi-family dwellings.
City code had state that multi-family dwellings, such as apartment complexes, would pay a single monthly service charge based on the size of the meter installed at the building. Previously, City Finance Director Janet Harrouff told city commissioners that service charge wasn’t sufficient to cover the cost of the water and wastewater services being provided to those buildings.
The ordinance, which goes into affect Jan. 1, 2021, allows multi-family dwellings to be charged a service charge for each unit in the building in order a provide a more accurate charge for services.
“If you have multiple residences, for each residence that is a separate livable residence, you have to have a base water meter fee,” Gilligan said. “Our water bills are broken up into two pieces: you have the water usage fee and the base meter fee. The base meter fee basically just covers the operations of the water system — the infrastructure, the staff that operates the system and stuff like that. The water usage fee is kind of the cost of the water.”
Gilligan said the city was finding that in some cases, the base meter fee was not proportionate to the amount of water being used.
He said he didn’t foresee any problems or issues moving forward.
“Most of our newer complexes are installing single meters for each residence,” Gilligan said. “It’s a lot easier to control. It also doesn’t put the liability on the landlord to hold a single water bill, so the majority of them are already moving this way.”
Lift Station No. 2
Commissioners also approved a number of resolutions related to Lift Station No. 2, located at 1304 East St., starting with approval to apply for a CDBG Sewer grant.
Working with CDBG Grant Administrator Garrett Nordstrom, the city will submit a $700,000 grant request to the Kansas Department of Commerce, for a project estimated to total $1.7 million. The project includes the replacement of two flooded suction centrifugal wastewater pumps, valves and piping.
The remaining $1 million will be matched by the City of Emporia’s KDHE-SRF loan.
The city then approved a resolution for maintenance and operation of Lift Station No. 2.
The city then approved contracts with BG Consultants for design of FEMA-related projects due to flooding that occurred in 2019.
The projects that were submitted were the S. Arundel Street sanitary sewer line — to make longterm repairs to two aerial crossings; the Neosho River Raw Water Intake — changes how the rock riprap is placed around the structure and increases armoring to project the raw water intake; and the Neosho River Low Water Dam — armor the upstream bank and the downstream wing wall to prevent and slow future damage.
BG Consultants was contracted to design the mitigation portion of each project.
The city also:
F Authorized the offering of City of Emporia 2020 refunding and improvement general obligation bonds, for an estimated savings of $133,000.