Council to consider fate of Mitchell's mask mandate

The citywide mask mandate could be extended or repealed by the Mitchell City Council on Tuesday at City Hall.
A discarded masks lays on the stage at the Mitchell city council meeting on Monday at the Corn Palace. (Matt Gade / Republic)

The Mitchell City Council will consider rescinding or extending the citywide mask mandate on Tuesday, which could determine the fate of the ordinance that's been in place for two months.

If the council opts out of rescinding or extending the mask ordinance during the 6 p.m. Tuesday meeting, the mandate will automatically expire on Jan. 27, marking the 60-day period set by the council. In recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, the council will meet Tuesday at City Hall.

While the council narrowly approved implementing a citywide mask mandate on Nov. 23 — which required masks or face coverings to be worn in all indoor buildings when 6 feet of separation cannot be achieved — it was met with mixed support. Mitchell’s mask mandate also carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a fine for violators.

Over the past two months, the council has shied away from amending the mask mandate expiration date, as it was tabled at two separate meetings. Initially, the council had the ordinance written in a way that provided the governing body the opportunity to review it at every meeting. But after council member Dan Sabers made a motion to have the review of the ordinance at Tuesday’s upcoming meeting, which was narrowly approved 5-3, the council will have its first opportunity in 2021 to review and amend the mask ordinance expiration date.

Although cases were beginning to decline prior to the council approving the mask mandate, since its implementation, new and active cases have steadily dropped in Davison County. Active cases were hovering around 800 at the time of the mask ordinance approval, but have since fallen to 103 as of Sunday, according to the State Department of Health.


In the past seven days, Davison County’s daily COVID-19 testing positivity rate was at 15%, according to the state Department of Health. At the peak of Davison County’s largest coronavirus surge that occurred in the months of October and November, the PCR positivity rate hovered around 39%, well above the recommended 5% rate.

Council member Susan Tjarks has been leading the efforts to implement a mask mandate in Mitchell, and she’s highlighted the drop in cases as another reason she supports the rule.

However, on the opposition side of masking, council member Jeff Smith said the mask mandates that have been adopted in several larger South Dakota cities are not solely responsible for the drop in case numbers, rather the state was already coming down from its peak. Over the past two months, COVID-19 cases have drastically decreased across the state, which Smith noted includes counties with no mask mandates such Hughes County, which holds Pierre. Smith is one of the three council members to vote no on the mandate, citing a government overreach that strips away Constitutional rights.

Council agenda

The following items will be considered as part of the consent agenda:

  • Approve the minutes from the Jan. 4 City Council meeting and the Dec. 14 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.

  • Approve department reports.

  • Approve and accept grant funds from the State Historical Society’s Deadwood Grant for the Crafty Fox building.

  • Approve the following board appointments: Larry Jirsa to the Main Street BID Board for a term to run Jan. 1, 2021 to Dec. 31, 2023; Matt Doerr to the Main Street BID Board for a term to run Jan. 1, 2021 to Dec. 31, 2023; Jacob Sonne to the Planning & Zoning Commission to fill an unexpired term extending from Jan. 2021 to June 30, 2024.

  • Approve the following raffle permits: Mitchell Friends of National Rifle Association (NRA) with the drawing to be held on June 1, 2021; VFW and the Sam Tronnes Foundation with the drawing to be held on July 1, 2021 or when all raffles are sold; Friends of NRA (Mitchell) with the drawing to be held on Sept. 11, 2021.

  • Set the date for the following bid opening: Feb. 3, 2021 for bid of the asphalt and concrete crushing project.

  • Approve gas and fuel quotes.

  • Approve Jan. 19 pay estimates.

  • Approve bills, payroll, salary adjustments, new employee hires, authorization of recurring payments and other expenses.

Other business

  • Recite Pledge of Allegiance, hear invocation from First United Methodist Church, roll call, hear citizens’ input.

  • Meet as Board of Adjustment.

  • Administer oath of office for new city department heads including Mike Koster, as the new Mitchell Police chief and Marius Laursen, as the new MItchell Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services chief.

  • Meet as Board of Adjustment.

  • Hold hearing for Patrick Clark’s application for a side-yard on a corner variance of 11 feet vs. 20 feet as required for construction of a deck at 421 E. Hanson Ave., legally described as lots 1, block 46, Lawler’s First Addition, in the city of Mitchell. The property is zoned in an R2 Single Family Residential District.

  • Set the date for the Board of Adjustment hearing: Feb. 1, 2021, for Firesteel Capital, LLC, and owner of Fredericksen Motels, LLC’s application for a conditional use permit to convert the buildings known as the Corn Palace Inn to multifamily dwellings located at 1001 S. Burr St., legally described as Weavers Squares Addition, Squares 11 and 14 and vacated Ivy Ave. and west 25 feet of vacated Burr St. and lot AB1 in the city of Mitchell.

  • Reconvene as City Council.

  • Approve authorization of contingency funds in the amount $100,000 for the replacement of golf carts.

  • Approve 15 minute parking on the north side of East Fourth Avenue by the Davison County Courthouse.

  • Approve agreement for west side water tower improvements, Project No. 2021-16.

  • Hold hearing for proposed resolution for the necessity of Anthony Avenue.

  • Approve Resolution No. R2021-01 for Anthony Avenue assessment, declaring the necessity for the construction of base course, asphalt paving and storm and sanitary sewer accessories.

  • Approve Resolution No. R2021-04, a plat of lot 8-I, block seven of Westwood First Addition, a subdivision of the southwest quarter of section 16, township 103 north, range 60 west of the fifth prime meridian in the city of Mitchell.

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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