Ralston officials: City working to implement mask mandate in coming days

Published: Nov. 18, 2020 at 5:39 PM CST
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RALSTON, Neb. (WOWT) - Ralston may soon have a mask mandate in place as city leaders said Wednesday they are moving forward with plans to put one into place.

It’s been tricky for leaders in Ralston to figure out how to get a mask mandate in place legally.

“We think it is particularly critical in light of the fact that Ralston is surrounded on three sides by Omaha. It just doesn’t make sense to step across the street and have to wear a mask and then step back across the street and not have to wear a mask,” says Rick Hoppe, Ralston city administrator.

City lawyers have had to go through state laws and statutes to determine whether they even have the authority to do it.

Until this point, they believed they could not.

“There appears to be some conflict in state law between a couple of chapters in the state statutes. Some of it suggests that a health board is the appropriate way to proceed but others would say no the health board can’t act without the state of Nebraska’s health board saying you can do this,” says Hoppe.

It’s not just Ralston dealing with this. Cities across the state are now struggling with this same issue.

Kearney city officials were able to pass a mask requirement last night — legally — by having a health board vote followed by a city council vote.

Ralston will be doing the exact same thing.

“Many communities have signed on or signed memorandums of understanding with their local health districts. In Kearney, for example, we have a board of health so we did not sign a memorandum with the two rivers health district,” said Scott Clouse, Kearney Mayor and City Council president.

After the board of health in Ralston votes on Thursday, it will then be up to the Ralston City Council to vote on it. That could happen as early as Monday.

City Administrator Rick Hoppe says he believes there is enough support to pass it.

“The mayor and the Ralston city council really want to have some leadership on this issue. They are very concerned about the well-being of their own citizens as well as the citizens of the metro and I think they’re just ready to assert that leadership and put a mask mandate in place,” says Hoppe.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts has opposed mask mandates said he will not institute one statewide.

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