City mask policy draws controversy


Stock image via pixabay


A proposal to require city employees to wear masks in their workplace in busy areas garnered backlash and has been put on hold.

The city’s Human Resources Committee on Monday voted to table a decision on the proposal, which would have required employees to wear face coverings in places like public restrooms and hallways. The provision would not have applied to individual offices.

Mayor Katie Rosenberg says the proposal came as a similar provision was put into affect by Marathon County for its public buildings, and is in line with Center for Disease Control recommendations.

But many employees are not in favor of the proposal. Human Resources Chair Becky McElhaney says she received a petition with 30 employee signatures signaling their opposition to the policy, as well as two city contractors.

McElhaney recommended the committee put a hold on making a decision until they could learn more about why the employees were opposed to the measure. McElhaney says no reasoning was included along with the petition and they would like to learn more before making a decision.

The proposal will likely come back before the committee at its August meeting, or potentially earlier as part of a special meeting earlier than, McElhaney says.

Wausau Clerk Leslie Kremer told City Pages that the mask policy might make it difficult to find poll workers, some of whom said they would not participate if there is a mask policy. The clerk’s office is already having a hard time finding enough poll workers, Kremer says.

In a related matter, the city’s finance committee on Tuesday approved new glass shields for city hall’s customer service area, which besides providing security protection could help provide a safety barrier for employees to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Finance Chair Lisa Rasmussen said the mask issue has become political and she was surprised it wasn’t just a workplace policy. “The state has done it, the county has done it, the UW has done it, and for some reason without controversy we can’t do it.”

Portage County proposed a broader facemask policy, also to controversy. A proposal to require masks inside business and other public buildings, and outdoors in public areas was met with fierce public opposition Monday. The item was discussion only, but will appear before Portage County’s executive operations committee, which will decide whether the item should get a full county board vote.