At Monday’s regular City Council meeting, the agenda included an action item to reconsider the emergency proclamation adopted in January requiring masks in public City areas and businesses until early May.
The councilors ultimately voted to rescind the mandate resolution, effective immediately, by a 6-3 vote.
City Attorney David Widdoes explained that the reconsideration was placed on the agenda due to a majority of the Council requesting it since its last regular meeting.
During the study session, Mayor Craig Henderson, who was one of the three who voted against the rescission, said that he was “proud of the City and proud of the Council” for initially instituting the mandate in November, and said that while he would rather see it last until its original end date, he would stand with the majority regardless of the outcome.
Vice-Mayor Carla Gunn said, “The numbers are going down, and I feel that now that so many people are vaccinated, we could lift [the mandate] and say that [wearing a mask is] still strongly recommended. We’re all about safety for all of Sapulpa.”
Councilor Bruce Bledsoe agreed and said that individual businesses and other public places could still require masks.
Widdoes confirmed this, saying, “Yes. If you lifted it, individual property owners, County or City courts, places with people in confined areas, and City Hall could still require them. They could still impose those mandates, and if there were a disruption or altercation, law enforcement would respond, and would treat it like a trespassing situation.” He added that City Manager Joan Riley would have the ultimate say over whether or not masks would be required in City buildings.
Riley said, “I think that it has come full circle. The numbers are down far enough for the decision to be left to individuals and businesses.” She did not at that time indicate whether or not she would continue to require masks on City property.
Henderson stated that three people signed up to speak publicly at the meeting, and asked them to raise their hands if they were there to speak in favor of the rescission. When all three attendees indicated that that was their intention, he explained that there “seemed to be a majority of the Council that wished to rescind the mask resolution” during the study session He emphasized that he was not discouraging anyone from speaking if they felt compelled to, but wanted to assure them that it likely wasn’t needed to sway a majority of Councilors.
Councilor Brian Stephens made a motion “to rescind the mask mandate effective immediately with the strong recommendation that people adhere to the guidelines of social distancing, washing hands, and wearing masks in confined spaces.”
Councilor Joseph Hale seconded the motion, and Councilors Marty Cummins, Lou Martin, Bruce Bledsoe, and Vickie Beyer agreed, voting yes.
Henderson, Gunn, and Hugo Naifeh voted no, resulting in the motion passing 6-3. Councilor John Suggs was absent.
Widdoes confirmed that the recision was “effective tonight, immediately” and that “businesses are able to retain their authority to regulate patrons” while in their locations.