The Mayor of Jacksonville says although he is not in favor of a mask ordinance, he will support it if the city council passes one.
Mayor Andy Ezard says personally he is not for the mask ordinance that was proposed at the November City Council meeting, and if he is called on to cast a tie breaking vote on a mask ordinance, he would vote no on the measure.
During the October council meeting, both Ezard and Police Chief Adam Mefford said that the JPD does not have the manpower at this time to actively enforce the public to wear masks. Ezard says he feels residents in the Jacksonville area have made a mask ordinance a bit of a moot point:
“We really noticed, and I have talked to the officers, and the Chief and I talk daily, but our communities done an excellent job of masking up. You know if that’s the direction the council wants to go with this ordinance, we will be prepared to take care of the health and safety of our community on asking folks first to mask up before we write them a ticket.
Me, personally, and I speak for the Chief too, we don’t want to get ticket happy, and our officers don’t want that. We’ll do everything in our power just to say hey, please put on a mask, and we’ll go as business as usual. That’s what we’ve been noticing a lot of through this pandemic. People are doing a good job.”
The ordinance was proposed in November by Ward 5 Alderman Steve Warmowski and is modeled after the Springfield ordinance now in effect in the capitol city. Warmowski says the Jacksonville ordinance is designed to give the mayor executive authority to enact in a similar manner as declaring a flood emergency, whereas the city council would not need to meet in emergency session each time the ordinance would need to be enacted.
Ezard says although he feels the ordinance is not needed, he will heed calls from Morgan County Health Officials should the need arise.
“I speak with Dale Bainter, the head of Morgan County Health Department and Phil McCarty, with ESDA, and we do talk all the time, and we’re here to help Dale. He has got a lot on his plate. Phil has a lot on his plate. If Dale comes to me and says hey Mayor we really got to get after this, we’re gonna do it, but we’re going to do it in the right way. We’re not going to just hire more staff to just go out and right tickets and citations. That’s just not going to happen under my watch unless Dale Bainter and Phil say hey Mayor this is getting out of hand. Then, I will listen to them definitely.”
The proposed ordinance calls for all persons over the age of two years old to wear masks at all times while in public spaces any time a public health emergency order requiring masks takes effect.
The ordinance cleared the first reading during last month’s council meeting and is set for a second reading at the December 14th meeting. Ezard says if the ordinance is such an urgent need, why wait till the 14th, and instead it should have been called for a vote via emergency clause.
Warmowski said following the council meeting that leaving the ordinance for a second reading during the December meeting would allow time for public comment on the measure before it is called for a vote. The Jacksonville City Council next meets on Monday, December 14th at 7:00 pm