At the packet briefing on April 6, Mayor Craig Morgan said there were four options for council to decide upon at the April 8 meeting.
• repeal the ordinance that night effective immediately;
• put out a proposed date giving the business community a little bit of time to get employees vaccinated;
• let the ordinance expire on its own terms April 29; or
• extend the ordinance.
Morgan called local businesses prior to the City Council meeting to get their thoughts on the ordinance. Ultimately the council voted on Morgan’s motion to give the business community more time for their employees to receive the vaccine before the face covering ordinance ends on April 22.
#RRCouncil votes to repeal #RoundRock face covering ordinance effective at 11:59 p.m. April 22 as the number of Williamson County residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19 continues to increase and hospitalization rates remain low.
READ: https://t.co/cpKPjNUdDw pic.twitter.com/6mEuY3pRwL
— City of Round Rock (@roundrock) April 9, 2021
Before the vote, seven people spoke during public comments with some in support of the face covering ordinance and others against it. Among the public commentators was Round Rock City Council Place 3 candidate, Janneke Parrish.
“I’ve spoken previously about the importance of masks,” Parrish said. “The science of masks is clear on their effectiveness. Please remember the human cost of the decisions you make here tonight.”
After public comments closed, Mayor Morgan spoke openly about the timeline of the pandemic in Round Rock detailing the City Council’s decisions along the way. According to Morgan, at the start of the pandemic the council unanimously passed the most comprehensive mask mandate in the state of Texas.
“Today 20.12% of people in Williamson County are vaccinated, which is increasing at 1% per day at the current projections,” Morgan said. “Today businesses and citizens have all the tools we didn’t have on Feb. 25.”
He went on to say that hospitalizations and cases are trending downward to some of the lowest numbers in Williamson County. Morgan said he believes it is time to move forward and get out of the way to let individuals and business make their decisions now that all of the tools are available.
If a business chooses to make their patrons wear a mask, Morgan asked for residents to respect the business. He also asked that if an individual doesn’t want to wear a mask not to shame them.
A motion to terminate the mask mandate ordinance on April 22 at midnight to allow businesses and citizens more time to get vaccinated was presented by Morgan before the council and seconded by Councilmember Writ Baese. A motion to dispense with the second reading of the ordinance was also approved in a 7-0 vote.
Reactions from councilmembers:
“I think that everybody is responsible for doing their best part. I have no problem with the 22,” Mayor Pro Tem Rene Flores said.
“What we need to do tonight is make a decision. I’m in favor of us making the decision through both readings. If that date is in two weeks so be it that date is in two weeks,” Baese said.
“Going back historically a year ago the data has changed and evolved,” Councilmember Matt Baker said. “I understand the motion, I would support getting rid of it today but if the council as a whole would like to pick a date that’s fine too.”
“As a representative of the small business community as well I feel that the council has done a lot to support the small businesses,” Councilmember Michelle Ly said.
Round Rock Police Chief Allen Banks presented two resolutions before the council that were both approved. The first resolution is to fund a General Victim Assistance Program with a $150,000 grant. The program aims to help victims of violent crimes to assist their recovery and guide them through the criminal justice process. According to Banks, the program is for citizens of Round Rock.
“The way our victims assistance program works is if there is another city that needs our assistance, we will definitely help them out,” Banks said at the packet briefing.
The second approved resolution presented by Banks is to request the replacement of the police department’s Tasers. Banks said the Tasers have a four-year shelf life until the cartridges and holsters need to be replaced. Now that the resolution has been approved, the department will retire 25 Tasers per year, which costs $10,275 a year.
Another resolution that was approved is to remove the monarch designation for a tree adjacent to the development site of The Depot Townhomes. The 82-unit development is planned for three blocks along McNeil Road between Mays Street and Burnet Street. According to the resolution, fire access is limited due to narrow alleys and tight turning radii. An emergency access driveway is necessary for the development and conflicts with the 36-foot live oak tree.
Towards the end of the meeting Mayor Morgan gave some final thoughts.
“Round Rock’s a great place. Are we perfect? We’re not. But we are an awesome place,” Mayor Morgan said. “We keep showing up on magazines after magazines as a great place to live and that’s because of you. We’re all Round Rock.”