Masks donated to city of Newton

Chad Frey
The Kansan

Face coverings were again a hot topic for the Newton City Commission — though the commission chose to not vote on a resolution to encourage mask usage Tuesday night.

There was other news in relation to masks — namely that the city has received about 21,0000 disposable masks.

“In the interest of helping those who may not have access to masks, the city has been able to obtain about 21,000 disposable masks to be given away,’ ” said Mayor Leroy Koehn. “Our police officers will have a supply to give out on calls and we will have a supply at city hall for visitors doing business.”

The city will also be giving disposable masks to local businesses in the days ahead.

Koehn said he has a box of 50 to give some of his acquaintances — especially some of those people who have been hesitant to wear a face mask in public as asked by health care providers and now required under a Harvey County order.

“I will do a little arm twisting,” Koehn said.

Newton Medical Center donated 16,000 of those masks.

A county health order, which was issued on Tuesday, requires mask to be worn over the nose and mouth if social distancing cannot be observed. The requirement is both for inside and outside, with exceptions. The full text of the health order is available at

That action effectively preempted action planned by the city. Following a special meeting at the Meridian Center last week, the commission instructed staff to create a resolution encouraging residents to wear face coverings to try and slow the spread of COVID-19.

The city commission chose Tuesday to not move forward with that action, as there were some differences between the resolution and the county health order.

“I think it is good policy to not put confusion into policy, and I think that we are doing that if we move forward with a resolution.” said Commissioner Richard Stinnett.

Commissioner Rod Kreie told the commission he had spent time at Walmart, watching customers come and go to see how many people were wearing a mask as part of his decision-making process in relation to mask orders.

“My observation was that 76.4% of the people going in and coming out were in a mask,“ Kreie said. “The lower level that we are looking for, 80%, is achievable if we are all working together.“

In other business, the commission:

• Approved a not-to-exceed budget for publication. The mill levy will stay flat.

• Received a July 4 activity report. Police and Newton Fire EMS responded to a dumpster fine started by improperly disposed of fireworks. According to Police Chief Craig Dunlavy, complaints were on par with previous years. Newton Fire EMS responded to 52 calls during the week of fireworks, and five of them were fireworks related.

• Approved a hangar lease agreement at Newton City/County airport.

• Amended city code to remove some local crimes that are not prosecutable and have not been charged in municipal court.