Waterbury wants you to wear a mask. At its June 8 meeting, the Waterbury Select Board recognized that, given the current pandemic and the fact that the town is seeing an influx of travelers from around and outside the state, it is best practice for people to wear face masks in public.
At the meeting, the board approved a resolution that instructs community members to wear facial coverings while in the presence of others.
Some select board members were hesitant to approve the resolution, knowing that when push comes to shove, it can’t be enforced. “There are certain people out there that will avoid your restaurant if you require a mask and go somewhere else. It’s a tough issue to deal with,” said select board chair Chris Viens.
Along the same vein, select board member Katie Martin said, “We can put up a sign that says Waterbury requires that you wear a mask wherever you go in public, but how are we going to stop everyone we see who’s not following that rule?”
Town manager Bill Shepeluck pointed out that passing a mask-wearing resolution is not the same thing as passing a legally enforceable ordinance. “It’s really a high-level invitation, a request if you will, asking people to wear masks.”
In response to Martin’s question about enforcement, select board member and business owner Mark Frier explained how a town resolution might be informally enforced by businesses. “Businesses end up wanting to follow these resolutions. Each business follows it and polices their own space. It ends up being policed by public spaces that are businesses pretty well,” said Frier. “Us speaking as a town and saying that masks should be worn in the presence of others is something that I would support.”
A mask-wearing resolution also helps relieve local businesses from extra scrutiny, Frier explained. “As business owners it’s really nice to point to the town or the state and say, we’re following the directive of the town and the state. Don’t blame me for creating hard rules.”
Eventually, the select board passed a resolution that requires civilians to wear face masks while in the presence of others. Board members acknowledged that there is no way to enforce the resolution, but did so with the hope that it would help give both power to local businesses and protection to locals in the throngs of tourist season.
The Warren Select Board has already passed a similar resolution and the Fayston and Waitsfield Select Boards will take up the issue next week.