Cavendish adopts mask mandate for public buildings

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

By a unanimous vote on Monday evening the Cavendish Select Board adopted a model mask mandate written by the Vermont League of Cities and Towns that will require the wearing of masks in all public buildings.

Town Manager Brendan McNamara introduced VLCT’s model mandate. Photos by Shawn Cunningham unless otherwise noted

Board members and Town Manager Brendan McNamara acknowledged that the mandate will be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce, but that it sends a message — just as an influx of people from other states arrive for ski season — that Cavendish needs to protect itself as cases of Covid-19 and its variants rise throughout Vermont.

McNamara said that “the governor had ruled this could fall to municipalities,” but board member Mike Ripley said that he had “chickened out.” It was the Vermont legislature meeting in a special session that cleared the way for cities and towns to institute mask mandates.

“I’m all for it,” said board member Mike Ripley. Telegraph file photo

“It’s ludicrous we don’t do this while setting infection records,” said Ripley, pointing to a 53 percent rise in infections in Windsor County in the past two weeks. Ripley said he understands the fear that a mandate could pit people against one another but he believes it is important to adopt it.

“I’m all for it,” said Ripley.

Board member Sandra Russo was also in favor of the mandate, saying it’s “better to do this than to not do this.”

Town Health Officer Doris Eddy spoke in favor of the action

McNamara told the board that the mandate was a “rule” as opposed to an ordinance and the legislative action giving the board the power to make it also states that the mandate cannot be repealed by petitioned referendum. He also said that the mandate is designed to be in force for 45 days, after which it can be renewed by the board for 30 days. VLCT’s guidance for towns on mask mandates can be found here.

In this area, Weathersfield has instituted a mask mandate in municipal buildings while Ludlow has extended a mandate to all public buildings, which includes stores and restaurants, and Springfield adopted a resolution to encourage people to wear masks indoors and a mandate for all government buildings. State Rep. John Arrison told the Cavendish board that in the Weathersfield case, the rule does not include the fire station since it is a municipality itself. He added that it appeared to him that within Weathersfield town offices, the rule was being observed inconsistently.

Board member George Timko pointed to the winter when people spend more time indoors as a concern

Board members including George Timko discussed taking the action as a resolution, a recommendation or a request from the select board but Timko also pointed to the winter season with people spending more time indoors as a concern.

Town Health Officer Doris Eddy said the town should certainly encourage people to use masks indoors.

Ripley said the town needed do the mandate to “protect everybody because there’s a certain portion of the population who can’t get” the vaccine.

McNamara suggested “enforcement through education” because he was concerned it would become confrontational and asked if there was another way. He also said that a number of people have approached him in favor of the mandate especially, with the increased number of people around during ski season.

Ripley said he would prefer to do the mandate noting that it is “not forever” and the public will have a chance to voice their opinion of it at future meetings. He moved to institute the mandate and the measure passed unanimously.

Mineral rights at issue on property up for sale

McNamara told the board he had been contacted by Vincent Narbut, who is trying to sell 65 acres he owns on Route 131, but is faced with a roadblock over mineral rights. McNamara said Cavendish purchased the mineral rights to the property a number of years ago to prevent extraction on a scenic portion of the highway.

McNamara told the board that Narbut had proposed putting a restriction against extraction into the deed if the town would relinquish its claim the rights, but that a potential buyer did not want the property with someone else holding the mineral rights.

Timko said that a deed restriction might work for one transfer but might not help later on. Members noted that the prospective buyer may be concerned that at some point the town could show up looking to mine his property. Timko suggested that the town could state that it will not exercise those rights. McNamara said he would check with the town attorney on ways to proceed.

McNamara also said that the town already owns 47 acres adjacent to the Narbut property and is exploring that parcel for gravel.

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