The Longmont City Council on Tuesday will consider two annexation proposals. (Times-Call file photo)

Longmont City Council on Tuesday gave the city manager authority to order people to wear face coverings and other personal protective equipment during a locally declared emergency such as one the city invoked in March because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The vote on the ordinance, which is to take effect May 27, was 6-1, with Mayor Brian Bagley dissenting.

While several Council members said they’d received emails opposing a masking mandate and questioning the city’s constitutional and legal right to allow the city manager to order one, Councilman Tim Waters said Council members have responsibilities both “to protect public rights and to protect the common good.”

Waters said protecting the common good compels him to take actions that protect “the health and safety of all of us.”

Since May 9, a Boulder County Board of Health coronavirus pandemic response order has required businesses, the employees of those businesses and anyone else older than age 12 wear a face covering when in public anywhere in Boulder County where people cannot maintain a 6-foot social distance.

Longmont’s emergency ordinance adopted Tuesday wouldn’t automatically mean City Manager Harold Dominguez would immediately order people to wear face coverings or other personal protection equipment. But it will allow him to do it quickly — when and if it’s considered needed, in addition to any county or state orders also in effect — rather than waiting several weeks for Council adoption of such orders, several Council members said during their discussion of the ordinance.

“We are in an emergency situation,” said Councilwoman Marcia Martin. She said with the measure adopted Tuesday night, Dominguez could issue the emergency order in 15 minutes, while it would take Council three weeks to formally adopt its own mask requirement measure.

It would also allow Longmont to apply a face-covering requirement to employees and patrons of businesses in the part of the city that lies in Weld County, some Council members noted during an earlier meeting.

Councilman Aren Rodriguez said the city manager issuing such emergency face-covering orders or other emergency responses already allowed by the municipal code would still be accountable to the Council for such actions, just are “we are accountable to our constituents.”

Rodriguez said if the Council disagreed with a Dominguez emergency order, “there is recourse.”

Bagley said, though, one of his reasons for opposing the ordinance was he hesitates before “we start telling people to wear things …”

The ordinance amends an existing provision in the Longmont Municipal Code’s section about the city manager’s powers to issue orders during a locally declared disaster or emergency order.

It authorizes the city manager or the manager’s designee to “require members of the public to wear or use personal protective equipment if there would be an imminent danger that life, health, safety, and/or welfare of persons might be seriously comprised in the absence of the use of such personal protective equipment.””

It defines “personal protective equipment” as “equipment worn to minimize exposure to hazards that can cause serious injuries and illnesses” that “may result from contact with biological, chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, or other similar hazards.”

At Councilwoman Joan Peck’s urging, the council specifically added “face coverings” to that list of personal protective equipment in the ordinance, which also says could include, but would not be limited to, “gloves, safety glasses and shoes, earplugs or muffs, hard hats, respirators, or coveralls, vests and full body suits.”

City code already makes it illegal to disobey Longmont disaster or emergency orders. The code provides that anyone convicted of such a violation could be fined up to $999, or ordered to spend up to 180 days in jail, or sentenced to pay a fine and serve time in jail. The proposed ordinance does provide for any additional fine or punishment.

Councilwomen Susie Hidalgo-Fahring and Polly Christensen joined Martin, Peck, Waters and Rodriguez in voting for the ordinance.

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