Most NEJC cities have now opted into enforcing JoCo pandemic order with county, Shawnee remains outlier

Shawnee stands alone in its decision to opt against using county resources to enforce the Johnson County pandemic health order. City councils at nine other northeast JoCo communities, including Overland Park and Lenexa, have entered into an agreement with the county allowing enforcement of the order. 

Shawnee is now the only city in northeast Johnson County that has opted against using county resources to enforce the county’s public health order aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

The countywide order, which took effect on Nov. 16, applies to businesses and organizations — not individuals — and requires social distancing, limits mass gatherings at 50 people or 50% of a venue’s capacity and puts in place a midnight closing time for bars and restaurants.

After passing the initial order, the county commission added enforcement provisions. Violators could face up to a $500 fine, though county and city leaders have generally emphasized the need for education over levying punitive measures immediately.

The county’s order does not apply to mask wearing. The wearing of masks is part of Gov. Laura Kelly’s statewide order and is enforced separately through the district attorney’s office.

Here are the cities in northeast Johnson County that have recently approved an agreement with Johnson County, allowing the county to enforce its health order within city limits.

  • By a 9-3 vote, Overland Park approved the enforcement agreement on Dec. 7. Police Chief Frank Donchez said, at the time, Overland Park police officers would take a “low key” approach to enforcing the pandemic limits on businesses.
  • Also on Dec. 7, both the Prairie Village and Leawood city councils also approved the enforcement agreement, by 8-3 and 5-2 votes, respectively.
  • Roeland Park unanimously approved entering the agreement at its Dec. 7 city council meeting, as well.
  • Westwood unanimously approved entering the agreement at its Dec. 10 city council meeting.
  • Fairway and Merriam both unanimously approved the agreement during their night city council meetings on Monday, Dec. 14.
  • Lenexa approved the agreement Tuesday, Dec. 15, in a 7 -2 vote, with two councilmembers in opposition, citing concerns with government overreach.
  • Mission unanimously approved the agreement during its city council meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 16.

Shawnee opted out of using county resources to enforce the health order, and will instead enforce the order with city resources.

The current county health order expires on Jan. 31, 2021 but could be extended.

Cities like Merriam that have approved Uniform Public Offense Code 1029 are required to enforce public health orders themselves, City Administrator Chris Engel said during the Monday city council meeting.

That leaves the city with three options, he said.

“We will either enforce the health order because we approved 1029, we will choose not to enforce the health order or we will give the county the authority or the permission to come in and enforce their health order,” Engel said.

While the agreement can be terminated at any time by either party, the county will enforce the order through the county codes department. City police departments will assist with enforcement including responding to complaints, violator education, reporting repeat violators and potentially testifying if asked to do so by the county.