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Decatur City Commission extends face mask ordinance until Feb. 22

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Decatur City Commission extends face mask ordinance until Feb. 22

A sign in downtown Decatur on August 25, 2020. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur City Commission extended the city’s face mask ordinance until Feb. 22. The city has had a mask ordinance in effect since July 2020. The ordinance expired on June 21, 2021, and was replaced with a new ordinance on Aug. 16, 2021.

“Since that time, the vaccination rates for Georgians and DeKalb County still remain pretty abysmal,” City Manager Andrea Arnold said.

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, 54% of Georgia residents and 57% of DeKalb County residents have been fully vaccinated as of Jan. 21. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 67.3% of the U.S. population aged five and older are fully vaccinated.

“In light of that data and the fact that our hospitals continue to be struggling with the demands being placed on them, mostly from the most recent variant of COVID-19,” Arnold said. “With those conditions still in place, the recommendation is to continue having the face covering ordinance in place.”

The ordinance requires residents and visitors to wear face masks while in any business, store or other place where goods and services are sold. The requirement does not apply to places of worship or polling places.

Employees of establishments in the city are also required to wear a mask. Individuals who are in outdoor public spaces are required to wear a mask when they cannot socially distance.

Businesses in the city must post a clearly visible sign near the front entrance notifying patrons of the face mask ordinance and a potential civil penalty. However, business owners can opt out and not consent to enforcement of the ordinance on their property.

Establishments that opt out have to post a sign informing customers they do not consent to enforcement of the ordinance.

Individuals who don’t comply with the ordinance can face a civil penalty of up to $25 on the first offense, and up to $50 on the second offense and any subsequent offenses, according to the ordinance.

Enforcement has primarily been based on complaints the city has received. The city is reliant on the public, who are out shopping and dining in the city. Overall, the community has been compliant with ordinance, Arnold said.

“If they do see establishments that are violating this ordinance, we do ask that they notify us. We have staff then that reach out to the business owners, to the managers,” Arnold said. “We have found that the owners and managers are very quick to respond, quick to try to comply with the ordinance. That is the approach, that along with regular communications from our economic development staff.”

Arnold added that 86% of the city’s 192 full-time employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The city implemented the COVID-19 vaccine mandate effective Sept. 27 and employees had until Nov. 30 to be fully vaccinated.

Employees who do not get a COVID-19 vaccine will be subject to regular COVID-19 testing, most likely two times a week. For jobs posted as early as Sept. 28, new hires will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Eighty-six percent compared to DeKalb County at 56%, I just cannot be more proud of the work that this organization has done to get us to that point,” Arnold said.

In other business:

— The Decatur Housing Authority is working on a draft plan for the South Housing Village project at Legacy Park. The draft plans are in accordance with the concept plan in the Legacy Park master plan housing addendum, Arnold said. The city anticipates hosting an open house on the draft plan to receive public comment in February.

DHA will also be applying for low-income housing tax credits, and the application will be submitted in May. While the planning of the housing development is underway, the city and the Public Facilities Authority will work to refinance the bonds that were issued to originally purchase Legacy Park in 2017.

— The city plans to submit a grant application to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration program to stabilize the bank and construct a boardwalk at the Legacy Park pond.

The estimated cost of the project is $100,000. The grant would provide $50,000 in funding and the City Commission approved matching funds of $50,000 for the project.

“This would be something we’d be partnering with the city schools, the Wylde Center, Trees Atlanta, Legacy Decatur and the Wild Nest Bird Rehab program,” Deputy City Manager Hugh Saxon said. “We think it will help improve water quality in the Shoal Creek watershed, which is presently listed as an impaired stream by the Department of Natural Resources.”

If Decatur gets the grant, the city anticipates completing the project by the end of 2023.

— The City Commission renewed an agreement with KCI Technologies for about $46,000 for the monthly inspection and monitoring of traffic signals in the city. The agreement amount increased by about 7% from the previous agreement, and there has been no fee increase in the last three years.

“Our monthly inspection process includes verifying that all the signals are operating correctly, including pedestrian devices, vehicular detection equipment, signal illumination and then coordinating with DeKalb County,” Assistant City Manager David Junger said.

KCI will also provide inspection services at other signalized intersections that not included on the traffic signal monitoring list. The monthly fee for each additional inspection is $205 per intersection, he added.

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