By a 4-1 margin, the Hinesburg Selectboard voted down a proposed mask mandate Wednesday night. It was not accompanied by an enforcement mechanism, and that may have been a key factor behind its failure.
According to some of the board members, the portion of the town not masking up is small enough that a mask mandate wouldn’t change much of anything.
“I think the only thing it will change is, it will create more conflict between individuals in public spaces that, then, our store owners and restaurant owners will have to deal with,” Selectboard member Mike Loner said.
The four members voting the measure down acknowledged that their decision didn’t come easily. They said they can understand the rationale for supporting it. However, Selectboard member Dennis Place said it wasn’t enough for him to support a mandate.
“In Williston or whatever — I mean — they have cops at Best Buy checking to see if you’re wearing a mask or not,” he said. “I don’t think — I don’t want to see that happening in Hinesburg.”
Some of the board members said state-level officials should never have punted the responsibility to individual cities and towns. Selectboard vice-chair Maggie Gordon referred to the situation as “ridiculous”.
“In the state of Vermont, we’re going town by town by town having these discussions instead of the governor having a statewide mask mandate,” she said.
Board chair Merrily Lovell was the lone member voting ‘yes’, calling it “a comfort statement” that Hinesburg residents have been asking the members to take. One Hinesburg resident agreed, saying it would a sign that her town government is doing everything possible to keep the community safe.
“I’m gonna remember those of you who don’t vote to do this tonight,” Anne Sullivan added. “And I am sorry to say, I will not vote for you when you run again to be a representative for me because of that.”
The Selectboard had also discussed the possibility of such a measure less than two months ago. Members noted on December 1 that the town doesn’t have sufficient staff to enforce a mask mandate themselves.