City Council meets

The City of Milton Common Council Tuesday, July 28, unanimously passed two actions encouraging people to wear face masks. 

The first, defined as a “public mask advisory,” issues guidelines in accordance with those released by the Rock County Public Health Department, Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, and World Health Organization, as stated within a written “Public Health Advisory,” released by the city. 

The advisory went into effect Wednesday, July 29. 

The advisory outlines six points, the first of which informs the public that the advisory is not a “mandate, requirement, or ordinance,” and is “therefore, not enforceable.”  

Points further advise individuals within the community age 2 and older to “wear a mask to help slow the spread of COVID-19,” and adopt other best practices “proven to be most effective” to slow the disease, such as washing hands, using hand sanitizer and practicing physical distancing. 

Other goals include supporting community members and businesses who are already wearing and requiring masks, while strongly encouraging masks among those not wearing or requiring them in their establishments. 

Before opening public comments, Mayor Anissa Welch said she had received numerous emails about the mask advisory. 

Outlining steps taken in past months to help mitigate the effects of the pandemic, Welch said council had allowed people to cancel park reservations without penalty, suspended reevaluations of property taxes, delayed dates to apply for some licenses and reduced fees, among others. 

“Consistently, the council has looked for ways to help our community navigate through this unprecedented pandemic. The mask advisory is consistent with that effort,” she said. 

Communications she had received demonstrated a “level of emotion,” which had not been present with earlier mitigations, but were heightened when communities discussed advisory mask wearing. 

During public comments, a member of the community said she was immune compromised, adding that the advisory “gives me a little more freedom to go out in public.” 

During discussion, councilmembers each made statements in support of the advisory. 

Many said they, too, had received calls and email. 

Councilmember Theresa Rusch said community members were confused, believing the advisory was a mandate. 

“I do plan to support this as it is an advisory and not a mandate,” she said, adding: “I’d advise us to wear a mask, but it is your choice.” 

“I’m proud to be an American, and with that comes both freedom and responsibility,” said councilmember Larry Laehn. 

City Administrator Al Hulick said many contacting him expressed “confusion.” He thought, he said, the advisory had been unfairly reported in the press.  

Many thought it was a mandate, he said, noting that council had written the advisory with a first statement, which read: “This is only a public health advisory. This is not a mandate, requirement, or ordinance …” 

Rusch said while listening to a “news station,” she had heard the advisory called a mandate. The station later reported it was an advisory. She thought that was the source of some of the confusion, she said. 

Public buildings visitor’s face mask policy adopted

In a separate action, council approved an update to its existing face mask policy, directed at city employees and officials, requiring visitors to “all public facilities,” defining visitors as contractors, vendors, and members of the public, to wear masks when inside city facilities and at outside city-established worksites where physical distancing is not possible. 

Parks, and associated facilities, such as shelters and the city’s Community House, and polling places are excluded from the policy, although wearing masks in those places is encouraged, Hulick wrote in a memo to council.  

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