Decatur City Council delays vote on possible mask-wearing ordinance

The Decatur City Council delayed a vote Tuesday evening on creating an ordinance to make the wearing of masks mandatory in the city due to an increase of coronavirus cases.

Posted: Jun 30, 2020 9:17 PM
Updated: Jul 1, 2020 2:49 PM

The Decatur City Council delayed a vote Tuesday evening on creating an ordinance to make the wearing of masks mandatory in the city due to an increase of coronavirus cases.

The council passed a resolution Monday night to encourage mask wearing, and then quickly set up Tuesday night's meeting to consider making it a rule with penalties for those who might defy it.

Now, members say they need another week to think about it.

At Decatur City Hall, city council members and members of the public spent about two hours talking about why they are either for or against a rule that could become the first of its kind in North Alabama.

"I wear it out of respect for you and I would appreciate it if you wear a mask out of respect for me," said one man to the council.

"The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If I want to wear a mask, I will wear a mask. If I don't, I won't," said another speaker at the council meeting.

It all started as a room divided.

"That is a horrible position to be proposed by our city leaders to further divide this city and to finger pointing over something that's not criminal action," said a woman to the council.

"I haven't heard a lot about personal responsibility. Wearing a mask doesn't just protect yourself, it protects others," said one speaker.

The night ended without a decision.

"No one had actually seen that document until last night when it was passed out, so of course, I'm not going to vote on something we hadn't read," said Decatur City Council Chairman Paige Bibbee.

Some council members wanted to create and vote on a mask ordinance this week.

"Any precaution at this point is better than no precaution," said Councilman Billy Jackson.

The city council eventually agreed to hold a meeting on Monday to continue the discussion.

"Mr. Kirby suggested that we go line by line and tell what we wanted to change," said Bibbee.

Bibbee says there's a lot to consider and more public comment to be heard before any ordinance is voted on.

"It is taking away people's rights to make personal health decisions," said speaker, Julie Clausen.

"How many deaths are acceptable to exercise that freedom? Is it one death? Is it five?" said Councilman Charles Kirby.

There were more people in the meeting who did not support a mask ordinance, but Bibbee says that's because those who do support it feel more comfortable emailing their views rather than risking exposure to the coronavirus.

The work session will be held at 4 p.m. Monday, followed by a regularly scheduled council meeting.

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