An issue brought to the attention of Poynette Village Board members at its Committee of the Whole meeting on March 22 was whether or not it should have Village Hall issue a mandate on wearing face coverings or masks within the building.
The item was brought to the agenda by Trustee Steve Mueller, after seeing noncompliance from two fellow Board members who do not wear a face covering during meetings.
“I thought there would be 100% compliance from Board members,” Mueller said, adding that he would like a mask mandate for Village Hall, even as vaccines are becoming more available.
Village Administrator Martin Shanks’ direction to village staff has been to follow state orders until they expire, are lifted, or struck down by courts. “Masks required” signs are on all doors of the municipal building which includes Village Hall, the Police Department, the Public Works garage and other entities.
“Generally, we have seen overwhelming compliance,” Shanks said in a memo to the Board. “I am not aware, or have been made aware, of any significant issues.”
Executive Order #105 by Gov. Evers — declaring a State of Emergency and a Public Health Emergency — is set to expire on April 4. Executive Order #1, which requires face coverings for individuals over the age of five while indoors or enclosed spaces when others are present — excluding their own house — is set to expire on April 5. It is currently unknown if new orders will be made to replace them.
Counties and villages can issue their own public health emergencies as well. There are no orders issued by Columbia County or by Poynette — the Governor’s orders supersede local control anyway.
Mueller’s issue has been with what he sees as noncompliance from trustees Judainne Stronach and Chris Polzer.
Polzer who also sits on the Columbia County Board as Supervisor for District 17, said that this issue has come up again and again at that level, too. Polzer added that he is “a big constitution, law and ordinance guy” and told Mueller he would be happy to wear a mask, and did so for the rest of the March 22 meeting. Polzer does wear a face covering in other areas of Village Hall.
Stronach and Polzer were disappointed, though, that Mueller never approached them outside of Board meetings for one-on-one conversations, and instead made it an agenda item at the COW first, in order to bring up the issue.
“The issuance of the Governor’s orders related to the pandemic has become confusing over the last year,” Shanks said in a memo. “Orders have been issued and expired. New orders have been made. Courts have struck down and affirmed different orders. The Legislature rescinded an order earlier this year, only for the Governor to issue another one hours later.”
During the meeting, it was noted by Deputy Clerk Sue Kilen that if people enter Village Hall without masks to do business, she does not turn them away. Additionally, Poynette Area Public Library Director Jodi Bailey said that if people walk in that building without a mask, staff members do offer one, but said that only a few regulars choose not to take one. She added that staff can’t simply ask someone about their potential medical condition, if that’s the reason for not wearing one.
The Board ultimately decided not to move forward with a mask mandate for Village Hall by a 4-2 consensus. Trustees Mueller and Fiore were in favor, while President Kaschinske, along with trustees Bill Boor, Stronach and Polzer were not in favor. Trustee Jerry Burke had an excused absence from the meeting.
An option available for all trustees is to attend meetings virtually or over the phone, but currently the village does not have adequate technology to fully accommodate remote trustees.