Monroe rejects proposal to require masks in the city

A proposed mask ordinance was rejected Tuesday by Monroe City Council after a majority felt personal choice should outweigh a government mandate.

Council voted 4-2 against the proposed emergency ordinance that would have mandated all places of business to require all employees, contractors, volunteers, and any other individuals that interact with the public to wear a face covering, and can only allows businesses to sell items or transact business with those who are in compliance.

Violators could have faced a progressive enforcement process by the city code enforcement inspector that included a verbal and a written warning before facing a $125 civil administrative penalty.

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The city, which is in both Butler and Warren counties, attracts thousands of people to its entertainment and shopping venues. However, Butler County is at a higher COVID-19 level than Warren County is and some on council said this would help the city, the counties and the state in prevention efforts. Masks are required in the Monroe City Building.

Councilman Todd Hickman, a registered nurse, said, “Monroe needs to be on top of this and show the communities around us that we care.” He said the city should make sure people are wearing masks in public as the county is on the verge of a higher COVID-19 level that could force business shutdowns.

Vice Mayor Keith Funk, who said he’s not against masks and wears a mask at work and in public with his family, believes residents are well-informed and educated on preventing COVID-19. He said the city has had 20 reported cases. However, if the Butler County Health Department is promoting the wearing of masks but are not enforcing it, he did not think the city should place any undue stress on businesses, residents or the administration and could not vote for it.

Councilman Tom Callahan said government should not be doing this and people who feel threatened should decide for themselves if they wish to wear a mask in public. Callahan also said he has yet to wear a mask in public and has never felt threatened to do so.

“I disagree with telling people to wear masks,” Callahan said. “The next thing you do, you’ll be telling people to wear scarves around their head.”

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