Public takes on commission for mask mandate

Chad Frey

Things got to be too much to bear for commissioner Randy Hague on Tuesday morning during a meeting of the Harvey County Commission.

He had spent about 30 minutes listening to members of the public who wanted to protest the mask mandate first passed by Harvey County in July and then extended in August.

Those who spoke were polite. Citing internet sources, they called mask research into question. They cited doctors whose research has not been peer reviewed and, in some cases, has been refuted by the medical community.

They also quoted the Bible, read from the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution.

And when they were done, Hague had had enough.

“I have a statement. I have listened to this,” Hague said. “I have listened to the Bible being quoted. When I go home I am going to go look up what the Bible says about hate. Just hate. None of us signed up for this. The amount of hate mail I am personally getting is unbearable. What does the Bible say about hate, just because you don’t agree with something.”

He concluded with “I am going to take five” and walked out of the room.

The commission took no action surrounding the mask mandate on Tuesday. The mandate was extended through Sept. 15 the previous week.

Once the meeting restarted, there was a COVID-19 update from Lynnette Redington, director of the Harvey County Health Department.

That began with a rundown of an announcement from the previous day — nearly 50 cases identified in students and staff at Bethel College during enrollment at the end of last week. Some test results were still pending.

“Our numbers will look very skewed because of these cases. Many of them come from out of the county and state. We get them, they are our college students,” Redington said.

In other business, the commission:

• Approved moving forward a tax sale.

• Discussed SPARK funds that will be distributed later this year in response to COVID-19.

• Reviewed a SPARKS grant application for the Harvey County Health Department.

• Approved a project to renovate a taxiway at Newton City/County airport.

• Approved the purchase of a tractor for the Solid Waste Department. The funds for the purchase come from both a grant from the state and some county funds. For the purchase, $56,250 comes from a grant, $18,750 from the county.

• Approved a bid process for a walking floor trailer for the Solid Waste department.

• Receive a presentation and report from SJCF Architecture on the Harvey County Courthouse Space Study and Courthouse Facility Assessment.

• Considered Coronavirus Relief Fund Memorandum of Understanding with USD 460 Hesston.