Brunswick residents won’t have to comply with a mandatory mask order — for now.
City commissioners Wednesday decided an ordinance requiring masks in public places where social distancing is difficult would be impossible to enforce with it being punitive.
Rather than threaten people with fines, commissioners agreed it would be better to draft a resolution to “strongly encourage” the use of masks.
Commissioner Julie Martin said the community has been doing a good job wearing masks, and businesses should be the ones to decide mask protocols.
City attorney Brian Corry said business owners have the right to require masks the way stores can require shirts and shoes to enter. He said commissioners can’t mandate masks without a mechanism of enforcement.
Commissioner Felicia Harris said she was opposed to a mandatory mask ordinance, saying it’s up to business owners to put the safety precautions in place.
Mayor Cornell Harvey, who originally suggested a mask ordinance in response to a spike in COVID-19 cases in the city, agreed with commissioners to support a resolution strongly encouraging the use of masks.
“Lately, businesses have been complying a lot more,” he said. “They, too, are concerned about this. People are right; it would be hard to enforce.”
But commissioners agreed to reconsider a mask ordinance if the number of cases continue to rise.
In other business:
• Help will be coming soon for those waiting for relief from hurricane damage sustained several years ago. The city is getting an estimated $3 million from the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program for rehabilitation and reconstruction of damaged homes. Commissioners approved a $779,000 contract for a company to administer the funds.
City manager Regina McDuffie said she talked with state officials about the administration expenses and was told they were within reason. She said officials with the Department of Community Affairs said that the administration costs will be reimbursed.
The contractor will evaluate the work needed, and the jobs will be bid to contractors who will be paid directly through the program. A program manager has been hired, and grant applications will be accepted beginning Sept. 1.
• A plan to make roadway and drainage improvements in phases in the Magnolia Park neighborhood was unanimously approved. Commissioners expressed concerns about the length of time residents living in the areas where the second and third phases are planned could have to wait.
“It would be less strenuous on the community if the entire project was done at one time,” Harris said.
McDuffie said she is actively looking for grants and other funding to complete the project.
• Funding to complete another phase of the Martin Luther King Jr. multi-use trail was approved. The $134,000 project, paid through SPLOST funds, was supplemented with a $100,000 grant from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
• A humane tethering ordinance was approved that brings the city more in line with the county ordinance.
Tiffani Hill, animal control division manager, showed a presentation to illustrate the need for an ordinance. The presentation included photos of inhumane living conditions for dogs found locally, along with assurances the ordinance is not designed to take people’s pets from them.
The ordinance also addresses dangers and vicious dogs.
“It gives the opportunity to teach proper care and it reduces a public safety threat,” she said.
The ordinance will be voted on at the next city commission meeting Aug. 19.