Kellogg implements facemask ordinance

by Chanse Watson
Managing Editor | July 31, 2020 11:11 AM

KELLOGG — Following in the steps of Wallace and Kootenai County, the city of Kellogg recently passed legislation regarding the use of face masks in pubic.

After some heated debate Wednesday morning, Mayor Mac Pooler broke a 3-3 tie among the City Council to pass an ordinance making it illegal to not wear a face mask in public in certain situations. This is only the second time in 28 years that Pooler has had to break a tie amongst the Kellogg City Council.

The passage of the ordinance was followed by the passage of a resolution that defines what the rules are. Essentially, the resolution explains what the rules are and the ordinance gives the city and law enforcement the power to enforce those rules.

Kellogg is now the first city in the Idaho Panhandle that has passed a mask mandate that has repercussions for not following it.

According to Section 1 in the resolution, “every person, shall, when in any indoor or outdoor public place, completely cover their nose and mouth, when members of the public are physically present for otherwise unprotected social interaction.”

The four-page document also includes several exemptions that are almost identical to Wallace’s resolution that was passed last week. They include:

• Children under the age of 5.

• Persons who cannot medically tolerate wearing a face covering. A person is not required to provide documentation demonstrating that the person cannot medically tolerate wearing a face covering.

• Persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.

• Persons, including on-duty law-enforcement officers, for whom wearing a face covering would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state or federal regulators, or workplace safety guidelines.

• Persons who are obtaining a service involving the nose, face or head for which temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to perform the service.

• Persons who are eating or drinking at a restaurant or other establishment that offers food or beverage service, so long as the person is able to maintain a distance of 6 feet away from persons who are not members of the same household or party as the person.

• Outdoor public places where a person can employ social distancing as recommended by CDC where the person is able to maintain a distance of 6-feet away from persons who are not members of the same household or party as the person.

The only exemption Kellogg lists that Wallace did not was in regard to persons who are engaged in indoor exercise, so long as they engage in social distancing.

In both the resolution and the ordinance, it is explained that anyone who fails to comply with the provisions of the order would be guilty of an infraction, punishable by a fine of $100.

City councilors Anna Moody, Terry Douglas and Dennis Norris voted in favor of the ordinance; while Ron Delcamp, Ron Mercado and Sid Armstrong voted against it.

“We haven’t been here before,” Moody said before the vote. “It’s about the greatest good for the greatest number of people.”

Delcamp argued against the ordinance, saying “this is just too much power for a mayor and a city council.”

“If you aren’t going to enforce the law, don’t pass the law,” he added.

The topic of enforcement has been a contentious one, especially considering local law enforcement officials such as Sheriff Mike Gunderson and Kellogg Police Chief Dave Wuolle publicly voicing concern.

“There’s really no way we can enforce something like that,” Gunderson said in a previous interview. “We’re so busy with calls for service, how do you add calls for someone not wearing a mask on top of that?”

Due to COVID-19 precautions, only essential staff were allowed in City Hall at the time of the meeting. Those who wished to listen in on the proceedings had to call in on a conference call line.

After the vote, Pooler explained that the goal of the ordinance is not to close businesses down or throw people in jail.

“The misconception is that we want people to put it on when they walk out the door and take it off when they get back home,” Pooler said. “That’s not the truth. If you can keep proper social distancing, you don’t have to wear one.”

The full text of the two pieces of legislation are available on the city of Kellogg website.

“If it saves one person, we’ve done our job,” Pooler added.

The Wednesday morning conference call ended just after an unidentified listener shouted, “we’ll vote you out!”