Prairie Village to consider amendment that would allow mayor to override certain county decisions on health orders

The Prairie Village City Council this week voted unanimously to direct its attorney to draft an amendment to the city’s emergency ordinance that gives the mayor temporary authority to enforce local, state or federal health orders in the city. The decision to draft an amendment was prompted by the Johnson County Commission’s debate on whether or not to abide by Gov. Laura Kelly’s July 2 executive order requiring face masks.

Prairie Village and the county commission are abiding by the governor’s order. But if the county had chosen not to implement Kelly’s order, Mayor Eric Mikkelson would have had no “clear authority” to override the county’s decision, he said.

The proposed emergency ordinance amendment would give him the authority to order 48-hour compliance with local, state or federal health orders. If the mayor were to exercise that authority, the council would have that time to call an emergency meeting to consider a possible ordinance while the temporary order remains in effect.

The council will consider the proposed ordinance amendment at its next meeting, on July 20, or sooner at an emergency meeting if it decides that becomes necessary.

After the council passes an ordinance, though, it must be published in the city’s newspaper of record. This creates a lag time of about one week before it can take effect, City Administrator Wes Jordan said. An ordinance’s effectiveness would also be limited because the county or the governor could amend their orders “two or three times in the interim.”

City Attorney David Waters said the city must ensure it adopts an ordinance that is at least as strict as the governor’s order “and the governor’s order could change tomorrow.”

Ward 6 Councilmember Terrence Gallagher said he was “a little nervous with stating we’re going to issue an ordinance to something we don’t know but anticipate that may happen at the county level.”

“Is this a good time to send a letter to the county commissioners that we support the governor’s orders and recommend not overturning it?” Gallagher said.

Mikkelson said the governor’s face mask order was being enforced by the Kansas attorney general, the Johnson County attorney or the district attorney. Noncompliance with the order can bring a civil penalty. The Prairie Village Police Department is enforcing trespassing violations by those who do not wear masks in public. Mask use violations can be reported by calling 913-715-3003.

The city will have about 20,000 masks this week to distribute to residents, Mikkelson said. He expected the county, using federal money, would reimburse the city for most of the cost of the masks. The police department will distribute masks and give information on their correct use.