By Joey May

Rep. Randy Garber (far right) talked to the county commissioners (l-r Keith Olsen, Dwight Kruse and Richard Lehmkuhl, along with Kristina Romine from the Multi-County Health Department about the governor’s decision Monday to require masks in public.

(Editor’s Note: Monday’s meeting will now be aired via Zoom Conference at 8:15 a.m. and anyone wishing to listen can be OUTSIDE of the north side of the courthouse. The Zoom conference code is

The Brown County Commissioners decided at Tuesday morning’s regular meeting to keep restrictions in the county “as is” until they gathered more information from county health officials on whether to require masks in public to protect from the spread of COVID-19.

This came after Governor Laura Kelly announced Monday afternoon in her press conference that she was mandating masks be worn in public. According to the press release from her office, this mandate was for indoor public spaces and outdoors only if social distancing of 6 feet or more could not be maintained. However, she signed her Executive Order on Thursday and it went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday morning.

Gov. Kelly said her tough decision came after a huge increase in cases over the weekend and assured Kansans it was for their continued safety.

Some Brown Countians disagree. There were several people present at Tuesday’s commission meeting to implore the commissioners to override the governor’s decision.

Rep. Randy Garber — who was present at the meeting — told the commissioners that according to House Bill 2016 the commission could make a decision to over ride the governor’s Executive Order — of which more specific details are to be made public on Thursday.

Rep. Garber made it plain he was against the governor’s decision and felt it violated the rights of Kansans.

“It is unfortunate, the but government oversteps its bounds at times,” Rep. Garber said.

Several people in the audience spoke out to the commissioners, and a few times had to be asked to quiet down. Among the concerns spoken about was they felt that being ordered to wear masks violated their Constitutional rights and also that tests were conflicting on whether masks adequately would protect a person from COVID-19.

During an outburst by one woman in the crowd, she said the governor was a “rogue governor” and had no right to impose these restrictions, stating Gov. Kelly needed to be removed from office.

The commissioners reached out to County Attorney Kevin Hill on the phone to ask his opinion on what they should do. Hill said he wanted the commission to gather actual scientific and factual evidence and not be swayed by any political representation. He said that in order to override the governor’s decision, the commission had to make a determination from the county health officer that it was not necessary for county residents to wear masks in public.

As of Tuesday, Brown County had 14 cases — all of which have recovered, according to the health department records.

One county resident told the commissioners that “we are not Kansas City,” that Brown County was doing what it was supposed to, referring to the fact that numbers in Johnson County and some other areas had skyrocketed.

Members of the audience asked the commission to make a decision by Friday, however the governor’s next press conference was not slated to happen until Thursday afternoon. Friday is a county holiday and the courthouse is closed.

With Fourth of July looming, and a question of whether some of the scheduled activities would have to change their requirements to mandate masks, the county commissioners decided to table any action until Monday.

Romine, who said she sympathized with the frustrations of the audience members, also said they had many people contact them just as passionate about requiring that members of the public wear masks. She said she would reach out to local counties to see what action they were taking and also discuss with Chastity Schumann, the county health officer, along with hospital officials in the county.

Another issue that needs determined is if they plan to require masks in public, how and who would enforce it? Would it come down to local Sheriff’s Office and Police Departments?

The commission said they would readdress the issue at 8:15 a.m. on Monday at the next regular commissioner’s meeting. The meeting will aired via Zoom Conference at

In other business:

County Emergency Planning Coordinator Don Pounds joined the meeting via Zoom conference and discussed a resolution to form a SPARKS Task Committee to oversee $1.9 million in funds for COVID-19 relief. The commission voted to pass the resolution and will work towards getting members of an eight-person committee to oversee the funds, including an accountant. These funds will go toward reimbursing the county and city governments, and other entities for expenses due to COVID-19. The county has 45 days to put this in place.

County Treasurer Cheryl Lippold addressed the commission and asked for permission to continue running her office as she has — limiting customers and allowing 3 people in her office at a time and they fill out cards at the door. The Drivers License station her office oversees has one person. The commission granted her permission to continue running her office this way through July. She said Kansans have been allowed extensions on their vehicle tags, but that extension is over at the end of August, so she had a feeling her office would be busy after that.

The commission voted to keep the nurse — who takes temperatures and conducts health checks at the front door — on for another month.

Commissioner Richard Lehmkuhl discussed a request from the Hiawatha School District to chip and seal the parking lot at the Hiawatha Elementary School. This was agreed upon earlier this year by a previous county employee but since then some of the more experienced equipment drivers have quit working for the city, so Lehmkuhl said they don’t have the staff to make this happen. He said he was contacted this week by school officials asking them to reconsider this decision, that work at the HES parking lot is being completed and the chip and seal is the final cap on that project.

The commissioners discussed that they were concerned with the staffing issue and didn’t think they could make it happen. Commissioner Keith Olsen said he had already told Horton schools they couldn’t do theirs and suggested they contact the City of Horton for possible help. It was the general consensus of the commission that Lehmkuhl advise the Hiawatha schools to contact the City of Hiawatha for help with the chip and seal.

Approved the following:

The June 30, 2020, month-end claims were approved as follows:

PAYROLL — The July 1, 2020, payroll was approved as follows: General $76,088.96 Road & Bridge 20,836.87 Election 1,785.77 Technology 546.56 Appraiser 6,063.71 Noxious Weed 2,552.38 ACC 7,009.06 JJA Core 6,795.70 Reinvestment Grant 1,802.90 Services for Elderly 2,730.00 Solid Waste 4,205.20 Special MVT 2,725.91 Employee Ben FICA 8,445.14 Employee Ben KPERS 10,079.02 State Unemploy/Work Comp -341.37 Insurance -3,729.58

Approved the following: 001 General $104,186.31 103 Road & Bridge 124,326.86 123 Historical Society 4,375.00 125 Employee Benefit 81,493.74 127 Election 10,455.66 129 Extension 8,500.00 131 Mental Health 5,850.00 133 Developmental Services 2,254.33 141 Conservation 6,875.00 143 Appraiser 304.78 145 Ambulance 21,250.00 147 Noxious Weed 7,211.27 151 Alcohol 2,867.95 155 Diversion 725.61 160 911 SB50 3,698.78 165 ACC 4,020.74 166 CC123 1,113.76 167 JJCR 2,952.03 168 Reinvestment Grant 73.36 201 Services for Elderly 3,385.12 211 Solid Waste 91,938.16 909 Payroll 186.64. TOTAL $488,045.10.

CEREAL MALT BEVERAGE LICENSE — The Commission received the Granted Advisory Recommendation from Powhattan Township for the Sac & Fox Truck Stop. The license for cereal malt beverages was signed.

WILLDAN — Brent Ragsdale, Willdan, updated the commission on the current conditions of the heating and cooling at the jail. Recommendations are to upgrade the HVAC system and add additional features to the rooftop along with replacing lighting to current LED standards. Estimated cost of the project is $970,000 — $1,140,000.

ROAD & BRIDGE — Julie Liberty, Road and Bridge Secretary, presented the final report for Streambank Revitalization on 290th Street. She also discussed other projects she has been working on.

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