PUNTA GORDA — Punta Gorda’s rule requiring indoor face coverings could be coming to an end later this month, as the emergency ordinance is set to expire April 30.
At Wednesday’s meeting, City Manager Greg Murray told the City Council that unless they choose to add it to a future meeting before the expiration date, the mandate will end.
City Council members didn’t say anything.
“You can consider this in the next couple weeks and we will move forward from there,” Murray said.
Established in June, the city’s mask mandate has been a hot topic throughout the coronavirus pandemic for both supporters and opponents, even inciting protest at City Council meetings and hundreds of emailed comments from residents.
In September, Gov. Ron DeSantis declared that local officials could no longer impose fines on residents found to be in conflict of such mandates.
In November 2020, the City Council voted to extend the mandate through April 30 despite losing the ability to enforce it.
Murray told the City Council that the inability to enforce the rule has caused some complications.
“We don’t have enforcement authority so it does put our police officers and staff in a difficult position in some cases when people are watching (whether or not someone wears a mask indoors).”
With more people being vaccinated, Murray said they are finding that fewer people intend to wear masks.
“We have a lot of availability for vaccinations and people do (seem to) want to be vaccinated,” Murray said. “So, we’re finding that there are more people that intend to not wear the mask in various locations (in the city).”
Murray went on to say that if the mask mandate expires, face coverings would still be encouraged in city facilities.
Following the meeting, City Communications Manager Melissa Reichert told The Daily Sun that city staff “has not been directed to place the item (the mask mandate extension) on a City Council agenda at this time.”
Upgrades eyed for Punta Gorda Wastewater Treatment Plant
Improvements are in the works for the Wastewater Treatment Plant in Punta Gorda.
Many of its tanks are reaching the end of their service life and the plant itself is nearing capacity, Reichert told The Daily Sun.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the City Council approved a contract with construction engineering firm CDM Smith based out of Fort Myers for the improvement project.
The city has already been working with CDM on the project.
Wednesday’s approval amends their contract with the company to include additional services such as design construction plans, construction manager at risk coordination, permitting, bidding assistance and grant assistance.
“We are very pleased with their services,” Murray said at the meeting. “We feel like they have the expertise to really move this project forward.”
CDM’s services are expected to cost around $2.96 million, funded through the city’s utilities construction fund, according to city documents.
The city’s wastewater treatment plant pumps around 4 million gallons of wastewater per day. The plant cleans sewage and water so that they can be returned to the environment.
“This is very important to the future of development in the city,” Mayor Lynne Matthews said at the meeting.