By Guy Page
Six Vermont municipalities decided against a public-places mask mandate last night. Three voted in favor.
For an overview of all known municipal mask mandate voting, as well as scheduled meetings, see “Municipal Mask Mandate Scoreboard.” Meeting in Special Session Nov. 22, the Vermont Legislature passed S.1, empowering municipalities to adopt mask mandates through April 30, 2022. The bill contains no firm deadline for municipalities to act, but does require review 45 days after adoption, and permits renewal every 30 days. S1 also says the selectboard/council may act without a citizen referendum.
Here are some of the details from last night:
Rutland city councilors – including former GOP lawmakers Tom DePoy and chair David Allaire – passed a resolution urging voluntary mask wearing. It also agreed to buy 50,000 masks for public use.
Concern for local businesses ran high. After Rutland Town approved a mask ordinance, several locals promised they would take their shopping elsewhere. This letter by April Kilbury, submitted to the City Council, echoes that sentiment:
“My husband and I travel throughout the state, and prefer to spend our money within our home state whenever possible. In a day in age where you can order anything from car parts, home goods, and even meal deliveries to arrive at your door, the future of small businesses hangs in the balance. Since Burlington has voted to adopt a business-wide mask mandate, we have sadly crossed them off our list of cities to shop and dine in. We can no longer see fit to support a city who does not support our basic freedoms. It won’t be long before many businesses and restaurants will close their doors forever due to decreased patronage.”
In Springfield, despite a CDC employee urging a Brattleboro-style mask mandate in order to avoid a lockdown, the selectboard (with one opposing) instead opted to pass a resolution encouraging mask wearing, according to the Claremont Eagle-Times.
The Waterbury selectboard tabled a potential mandate. Onlookers said three of the selectboard members appeared to oppose it. When explaining the decision to table, a selectboard member said the board would take no further action unless someone brought it up again.
About eight Vermont residents spoke against the mandate. According to one of them, a spokesperson for Cold Hollow Cider opposed the mask mandate – “I’m not going to do this to my employees, my customers, and my friends,” she reportedly said. A service station owner said there have been fights in his parking lot over masking and said, ‘if you pass this, I’m calling you’ if another altercation happens.
Morrisville voted 3-2 against a mask mandate. An estimated 60 interested people attended the meeting. Sentiment among selectboard members may have been in sync with longtime selectboard member and current House member Dave Yacovone, who explained his vote against S1 on the floor of the House during the Special Session Nov. 22: “United we stand, divided we fall. This bill will divide us. The juice is simply not worth the squeeze.”
Neighbor Stowe also voted 4-1 against. Charlotte selectmen also reportedly declined to move forward on a mask mandate.
The Mad River Valley ski town of Waitsfield joined neighbor Warren in passing a mandate. The selectboard vote was 4-1. Essex Town and East Montpelier also passed mask mandates.
South Burlington became (after Wolcott, two weeks ago) the second municipality to pass a mask mandate limited to municipal property. State Sen. and City Councilor Thomas Chittenden reported to an inquirer, via text: “We did not take up a resolution to require city wide – no appetite. We did vote to require masks in city buildings – unanimously.”
Meetings scheduled for tonight:
Williston – 7 pm, Dec. 7 – #6 on agenda, est. time 7:20 pm
Shelburne – 7 pm, Dec. 7 – 7:35 pm at the Shelburne Town Offices at 5420 Shelburne Road. Items on the agenda are not up for discussion during the 7:05 comment time.
Cambridge – Dec. 7.