MALONE –– Objections to an effort to tweak a resolution that would require Franklin County residents to wear a mask in situations in which social distancing is not possible has left the fate of the measure in doubt.
Legislator Paul Maroun, R-Tupper Lake, told his colleagues during a work session last week that the resolution unanimously approved by the Legislature on May 7 had failed to win needed approval from the state Department of Health, even though the measure was modeled on a similar resolution from Oneida County the state had approved.
The Franklin County resolution contained some minor wording changes the state did not accept, Maroun said. He proposed re-adopting the measure, this time using the exact wording of the Oneida County resolution, only substituting the words “Franklin County” for “Oneida County.”
But several other legislators –– who had originally voted for the resolution –– expressed reluctance to go ahead with making the changes.
Legislator Andrea Dumas, R-Malone, said that since the measure was passed, she had received calls from her constituents objecting to the county’s action. Many of the objections centered on the penalties for not wearing a mask, which can range up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
Maroun and others noted that the penalties are contained in the state’s Public Health Law and that they would only be sought after violators refused repeated requests from law enforcement to comply with the mask requirement.
Most situations in which people refused to wear a mask would be resolved without police involvement, noted Legislature Chairman Don Dabiew, D-Bombay.
Dumas acknowledged that the mask requirement –– and its accompanying penalties for failing to comply –– are contained in state law and an executive order issued by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. She said the county’s resolution was simply “putting another layer” in place.
“Another layer that’s repetitious,” added Legislator Paul Lauzon, D-Fort Covington.
County Manager Donna Kissane said the county’s resolution was largely intended to emphasize the state requirement and re-enforce the need for people to protect others from exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
“That does need to be our message,” Kissane said.
To help drive the point home, the county has been distributing signs for businesses to post on their doors outlining the requirement. The signs include the county seal and are headlined “It’s the law” to make sure people know the order’s origin –– and deflect any ire created by the requirement toward the county, rather than the business, Legislator Lindy Ellis, D-Saranac Lake, has said.
After some lengthy and at times heated debate, Maroun called for the revised resolution to be tabled, noting as he did so that –– as mayor of Tupper Lake –– he intended to enforce the mandate based on the state’s actions.