Auburn City Council supports mask ordinance

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By Hannah Lester/hlester@opelikaobserver.com
Auburn City Council approved a resolution supporting Gov. Kay Ivey's mask ordinance.

By Hannah Lester
hlester@opelikaobserver.com

The Auburn City Council approved a resolution in support of Gov. Kay Ivey’s mask ordinance Tuesday night. 

Ivey’s ordinance mandates that residents of Alabama wear masks in public except in specified situations such as eating or exercising. 

“Whereas, COVID‐19 cases and hospitalizations continue to grow in the Auburn community, and local health experts support the use of masks and face coverings along with social distancing, hand washing and sanitation as a means of reducing the spread of the virus in the city of Auburn, and whereas the City Council of the city of Auburn, Alabama, wants citizens to be safe working, spending time outdoors, patronizing local businesses and enjoying life in Auburn,” the resolution stated. “Now, therefore, be it resolved that the City Council of the city of Auburn, Alabama, strongly supports Governor Kay Ivey’s order to require masks in public spaces as a means of reducing the spread of COVID‐19 in the state.”

The council had been discussing passing its own ordinance before Ivey released the state-wide mandate. 

“We know that masks are the law of the land and we ask people to remember that as they go about their daily lives and I would ask that people would also be mindful of those people that you are around and to make sure you’re not endangering people by accidentally coming across and spending time with folks that could be in a vulnerable situation,” said Mayor Ron Anders.

Council members raised concerns that when Ivey’s state-wide mandate ends on July 31, the city should have a plan in place. 

“This order from the state expires on July 31 and this council doesn’t meet again until Aug. 4, I believe, the first Tuesday, so in the event that we don’t hear of any type of extension from Gov. Ivey, I think it would serve us well to be prepared to address the fact that this is expiring on July 31,” said Ward 6 Council-member Bob Parsons. “I like the language of her order and I think it would be easily adopted by this city council if we have the will to do so.”

Ward 2 Council-member Kelley Griswold echoed Parson’s statement and suggested Auburn be ready with its own ordinance. 

“I would hate for us to be in the situation we were in just a couple weeks ago where we were in receipt of hundreds and hundreds of emails that are supporting either side of the position,” he said. “But I believe we need to come to a decision and have something waiting in the wings … but we don’t want to be in between council meetings and be excepted to act.”

City Manager Jim Buston reminded the council that it has no authority on its own to enforce an ordinance and it would need the support and permission of the state health director. 

“He also is the one that the governor had to reply on to pass the state-wide ordinance, so it seems to me that if he were, and I don’t know, but, if he were not amenable to having a state-wide ordinance any longer, I’m wondering if he would be amenable to the city of Auburn having their ordinance,” Buston said. 

Parsons said he believed the state health director would understand that each city has its own challenges and reaction to the virus, however.

“If our numbers are trending up continually in the manner that they are now, I don’t anticipate any kind of resistance from the health director, because we have a serious situation here,” he said. 

Anders said he would be reaching out to Ivey’s office to gather information on what her future plans are for the state and the possibility of an ordinance for the city of Auburn after July 31. 

“I really believe that we’ll be seeing or hearing some type of thought from the governor and her office maybe at the end of this week or certainly early next week as to what the plans might be to either end the order or continue the order,” he said. 

Wright Street Parking Deck: 

The council approved an ordinance to issue general obligation warrants for $16 million for the Wright Street Parking Deck. 

The city will borrow the $16 million in order to complete the design, acquisition, provision, equipping and construction work on the parking deck. 

“Given the current unusual environment in the municipal bond market, it was determined that a local bank borrowing would be the best alternative, providing the best rates with the lowest cost,” the city’s online packet said. “After evaluating the appetite of banks that the City typically deals with in local borrowings, it was determined that BBVA Compass through BBVA Mortgage Corporation (BBVA) provided a very competitive rate while meeting the City’s terms.”

The amount will be borrowed with a 2.3 percent interested rate for 20 years. 

The Wright Street Parking Deck first became a realty in 2017 when the city purchased the property on North College Street. 

Design began in 2018 and construction contracts were bid this past March. 

Other Business:

  • The city of Auburn revised its 2020-2024 Community Development Block Grant Consolidated Plan and its 2020 Annual Action Plan. 
  • The council approved a vacancy on the Board of Zoning Adjustment, a vacancy on the Greenspace Advisory Board and Two Planning Commission spots. 
  • Two re-zoning issues were postponed to the Aug. 4 meeting. 
  • The council approved conditional use approval for a storage building on 136 West Creek Parkway. The council had previously approved the use but needed to do so again due to changes by the owner. 

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