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story.lead_photo.caption Helen Wilbers/FULTON SUN Kent Wood, right, of the Callaway County Health Department, addresses the Fulton City Council during a public forum on whether the city should draft a mask ordinance. Wood said that while the health department encourages wearing masks, it doesn’t have the manpower to enforce an ordinance.

During Tuesday evening's public forum, the Fulton City Council heard multiple points in favor and against drafting and enacting a mask ordinance.

Ultimately, one point seemed to prove most persuasive.

Representatives of the Callaway County Health Department and Fulton Police Department said their offices currently lack the personnel and resources necessary to enforce any such ordinance.

"At this time, with the manpower we have this ordinance, if passed, would be totally unenforceable," Fulton Chief of Police Steve Myers told the council.

Kent Wood, speaking on behalf of the CCHD, made a similar point. He noted Columbia, which recently passed a mask ordinance of its own, is handling enforcement through its own health department. Their enforcement process has been largely complaint-based, and the group of individuals they've dedicated to taking and following up on those complaints likely outnumber the CCHD's entire staff, he said.

"The Callaway County Health Department doesn't have available staff to do enforcement of this kind," he said.

Tuesday evening's meeting served as a chance for Fulton residents and business owners to voice their views about whether the city should make mask-wearing mandatory in public spaces. City Clerk Courtney Crowson clarified no mask ordinance had actually been drafted as of Tuesday, despite social media rumors an ordinance would be voted on that night.

"The meeting is to give us a sense of direction," she said.

Ultimately, no city council member made a motion to draft such an ordinance.

"If we can't enforce a law, we shouldn't pass one," Ward 2 City Council member Jeff Stone said. "But we have the ability to influence a town."

Stone, who works in the medical field and directly interacts with COVID-19 patients, said he believes wearing a mask is an effective way to decrease COVID-19's spread.

Instead, Ward 3 City Council member John Braun made a motion to bring a recommendation to an upcoming meeting with county officials — a recommendation to make an official county-level "strong recommendation" that all residents wear masks in public. He said it'd be nice to get the whole county on the same page.

The eight city council members voted unanimously in favor of the motion. Following the meeting, Mayor Lowe Cannell said the recommendation will have to be drafted; he plans to speak to county officials today about when the next meeting of the countywide pandemic response group will take place. It could happen by the end of the week, he said.

"If (the county pandemic response group) doesn't want to do this, we can do it on our own," Cannell added.

Stone and Ward 2's Mary Rehklau noted the topic of a mask ordinance could return at a future meeting if Fulton's COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

"Maybe it could be one more line item within a state of emergency if we have to re-enact that," Stone said.

The remarks from Wood and Myers occurred late in the meeting, following an hour-long public comment period. Fulton residents had to sign up in advance to speak, and more than a dozen did so. Each resident was given four minutes, and the city alternated between hearing remarks from those against a mask ordinance and those in favor.

Common themes among those speaking against a mask ordinance were the importance of personal liberty and a belief the COVID-19 pandemic has been blown out of proportion by the media. Those speaking in favor focused on scientific studies showing masks' success and the importance of taking responsibility for fellow residents' safety.

"The difficult thing with this topic is that there's no middle ground," Cannell said. "You don't know what to believe between the propaganda and the science."

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