Riley County commissioners Monday voted to opt out of the governor’s mask mandate during an impromptu discussion.
Initially, the commission had planned to wait until Thursday to gauge the City of Manhattan’s decision on a citywide mask mandate as well as the next local health order to be issued from the health department. It was not on the Monday morning agenda. Commissioner Marvin Rodriguez voiced his opposition to the order and voted to opt out.
“Slowly, little by little people learn to accept whatever is sent out and before you know it we will have no control on liberty,” he said. “I think it’s not a good thing to allow the government to start telling people what they can and can’t do, just because they think (something’s) bad.”
Rodriguez calls the order is government overreach and cited low death numbers in Riley County, that don’t justify the mandate. Commissioners Ron Wells and John Ford had wanted to wait until the city commission’s decision Tuesday evening so as to not flip flop mandates. Pottawatomie County opted out of the executive order last Thursday. However, Riley County Clerk Rich Vargo recommended the commission make the decision Monday, since Rodriguez would not be present during Thursday’s meeting. Rodriguez’s wife is having a medical procedure that day.
“What changes regardless of what the city does tomorrow for what you guys are going to do? If they mandate it then what are you going to do Thursday and if they do nothing is it going to be the same result,” he asked.”
Vargo says a significant decision like this looks better when all three commissioners are present.
Manhattan Mayor Usha Reddi, via her Facebook page has stated that the Riley County Commission’s decision doesn’t change the conversation for the Manhattan City Commission Tuesday, who plan to address the mask mandate with a possible vote. Reddi and fellow commissioners Aaron Estabrook and Linda Morse have both expressed support for such a mandate. Commissioners Wynn Butler and Mark Hatesohl have both been opposed.
Regardless of what city officials decide Tuesday, the mandate or no mandate will apply to Manhattan residents and businesses living on either side of the county line.