Face coverings

The Board of Trustees for the Town of Fairplay grappled with a myriad of perplexing questions Monday night, May 18, that cut directly to the heart of civil liberties, public safety and the rights of business owners.

When initially presented, the question of whether an emergency ordinance should be adopted requiring the wearing of face coverings in places of public accommodation around town seemed simple enough.

Local governmental entities in many other locations have adopted measures requiring face coverings, and the Town of Fairplay is well within its rights to impose a similar requirement of its own.

But when the board began digging into hypothetical questions and possible repercussions associated with the proposed measure, it became immediately apparent that simply requiring the wearing of face coverings in town was, well, not so simple after all.

As a result, the board chose not to adopt the proposed ordinance.

Every board member contributed his or her thoughts during the decision-making process, but it was Mayor Frank Just who articulated most clearly the many drawbacks to adopting such a measure.

“We should play a role in educating the public, and we should have business owners’ backs if they request that their customers wear masks,” Just conceded. “But this type of ordinance creates more issues than it resolves.”

Just went on to point out that business owners already have full legal control of people who are not compliant, and that face coverings can in fact be required for customers to receive service in a particular place of business. He compared the requirement to policies such as “No shirt, no shoes, no service.”

The mayor also pointed out that people asked to wear masks by business owners are generally very cooperative.

“I’m not one who believes in writing a law for every transgression, and I’m not in favor of writing a law to offset a problem we don’t have.” Just said.

Trustee Cindy Bear agreed.

“There is a lot to consider here,” Bear said. “It’s a personal decision that is difficult to impose on the general public. Would employees be asked to wear masks all day? That’s hard. It’s not easy to go all day wearing a mask. I just think messaging and enforcement of an ordinance like this would be problematic.”

Ultimately, the mayor offered an alternative to support business owners without the complications of writing and enforcing new laws.

Just proposed that if business owners post signs or banners requiring that customers wear masks, then the Town of Fairplay could add verbiage supporting that requirement. Just added that additional signs, banners or posters stating that the town supports the wearing of masks might also be an option.

Trustee Scott Dodge suggested that electronic signs like those used by the Colorado Department of Transportation might also be used to demonstrate that the Town of Fairplay supported the wearing of face coverings.

“Signs saying something like ‘Wear masks, support mountain communities,’ might also be useful,” Dodge said.

Town Administrator Tina Darrah added that the necessary verbiage for such signs could be created to demonstrate support for businesses and business owners asking that customers wear masks, and that the Town of Fairplay was prepared to support any decision the board made.

With that, Just read the motion and asked for a second. The motion died at that time for lack of a second, making a vote on the matter unnecessary.

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