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Decatur City Commission discusses extending mask ordinance to places of worship

COVID-19 Decatur

Decatur City Commission discusses extending mask ordinance to places of worship

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FILE PHOTO: Amy Butner’s protective mask comes with a message. In Korean it reads “Lets Live together.” Downtown Decatur, April 26, 2020. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Decatur, GA — The Nov. 16 Decatur City Commission meeting included a discussion about whether the city’s mask ordinance should extend to places of worship.

During the meeting, the City Commission voted to extend the city’s mask ordinance through Dec. 21, 2020.

During a discussion about extending the city’s mask ordinance, called a face-covering ordinance by the city, the exemption on places of worship was brought up as a possible flaw. Commissioner Lesa Mayer expressed concern with the exemption, and Commissioner George Dusenbury has consistently raised questions about the exemption at several other meetings.

Decaturish reached out to Commissioner Dusenbury about this topic on Nov. 4.

“We should be as inclusive as possible in regards to requiring masks be worn indoors,” said Commissioner Dusenbury. He said he has not seen any concerning or risky behavior from local houses of worship during the pandemic, but it would be helpful if the ordinance were as comprehensive as possible.

“The more exemptions you have, the less strong of a stance you are taking,” he said.

At the meeting, Commissioner Dusenbury said he didn’t feel that wearing a mask impedes anyone’s ability to practice their religion.

Mayor Patti Garrett said that the ordinance was “erring on the side of caution in separating church and state.”

Commissioner Mayer said she was concerned about whether or not the Commission was doing enough. “I’ve gotten emails, messages, and texts about concerns about whether are not we are, in the process of governing, doing enough to keep the community safe.”

City Manager Andrea Arnold said that there haven’t been any issues at local places of worship with noncompliance with the mask ordinance.

In other business:

– The Commission approved a resolution reaffirming their commitment to the Georgia Municipal Association’s “Cities of Ethics” principles. This allows the City of Decatur to continue to be certified as a City of Ethics by the GMA program.

– The City Commission passed a resolution allowing the City Manager to execute a licensing agreement with Robin Hill Design Studio, the studio of artist Huckleberry Starnes for the use of the City of Decatur logo. This will allow the city to offer more variety of apparel and merchandise than what is currently available.

– CARES Act funding was also discussed, including the $1.2 million allocated towards community expenses, including nonprofits. City Manager Andrea Arnold said $200,000 is likely to be allocated for HVAC systems for city of Decatur buildings to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

After December 20, 2020, any remaining balance will be used to reimburse the city’s general fund or its public safety payroll expenses, which will prevent the City from having to forfeit those funds, City Manager Arnold also said. Those funds can still be used for pandemic-related expenses in the future.

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