Residents ask Hays City Commission for mask mandate extension prior to Oct. 5 expiration

BY CORIE LYNN

The City of Hays mask mandate has been a point of intense debate among city residents since being implemented by the city commission this summer. The mandate was extended in September with the new expiration date set for next Monday.

Thursday’s Hays City Commission meeting was the last meeting before this October date. Knowing this, a number of Hays residents spoke up during the meeting to thank the commissioners for extension and to request they reimplement the mandate.

The speakers cited the COVID-19 case increase in Ellis County as a reason for another extension. In addition, Elizabeth Schneider, a Hays primary care doctor who spoke that evening, said she believed the mandate reflected well on the community’s efforts to fight the virus.

Two residents who spoke, Cassie Hickel and her young daughter, Lydia, cited the potential harm lifting the mandate would present to high-risk families such as theirs.

“With the upcoming flu season, I am pleading with you to extend the mask mandate so that families, community members, city workers and so many others who are in our same situation feel just a little safer shopping and dining and being in the city that we know and love,” Hickel said.

Following Hickel’s address, there was no further discussion on the topic either from the commissioners or residents opposed to the mandate. Unless further action is taken, the mandate is still set to expire Oct. 5.

Much of the night’s meeting was spent in discussion of unfinished business and hearing reports, such as the financial statement presented by Kim Rupp, director of finance.

Jesse Rohr, Hays director of public works, presented a proposal that would rezone Ellis County property from agricultural land to public and institutional land, which would allow public buildings, such as libraries or campgrounds, to be built on it.

The commissioners also heard a proposal from Hays IT Director Chad Ruder for fiber connectivity to the Hays Regional Airport.

According to Ruder, extending fiber to Hays Regional Airport would improve reliability, provide high speed to City Hall resources and allow for further connectivity growth. The extension would also provide options for emergency operations should a disaster at another city location prevent the recovery of data.

The commissioners approved both the connectivity proposal and the rezoning proposal as presented.

Assistant City Manager Collin Bielser presented the city progress report, the final report of the evening.

The report included updates on various construction projects, such as street repairs, and parks and recreation activities, such as the Frontier Park Disc Golf Tournament, that took place in the past month.

As he spoke to the commissioners, Bielser also updated them on the progress of the roundabout installation on Vine Street.

Currently, construction is focused on two sections of Vine and traffic has been moved to the east side of the street as the roundabouts begin to form. Workers have also begun sidewalk installation on Frontage Road.

“As of Monday [Sep. 21], they were about 19 percent complete,” Bielser said.

With the conclusion of the report, Commissioners Ron Mellick and Michael Berges both took the opportunity to mention the Fort Hays State University logo being painted on a local water tower.

Mellick and Vice Mayor Sandy Jacobs also promoted the drive-through flu shot clinic at Hays Medical Center on Sunday.

“I just wanted to reiterate about the wonderful service of getting the shots at the hospital,” Jacobs said. “This is 20-some years they’ve been doing it, and I’ve been going since the very beginning. It’s a great service for the community and it’s done through the Foundation.”

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