City staff and visitors to Rapid City municipal buildings will be required to wear face masks as active COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to climb, Mayor Steve Allender announced at a press conference Monday.
"For eight months now we have been monitoring and responding to the impacts of the COVID pandemic on our community as well as on city operations," he said. "The pandemic is progressing and present circumstances demand we take a more aggressive approach to protecting our customers and employees at this time."
The mayor said all visitors to city-owned buildings will be required to wear a mask. If the person does not have one, the city will provide one. Allender said in-person services will be refused to anyone refusing to wear a mask and there will be no exceptions to the mask mandate, including those who claim a medical exemption.
"There's always the talk of a medical exemption, but this is not covered under ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)," Allender said. "It would be hard for us to verify a medical exemption. If you are one of those individuals that your doctor has advised you that the risks of wearing a mask are greater than not wearing a mask in a pandemic, then I would say it would be great for you to find someone to come to City Hall for you."
Allender said most city functions, like making payments or submitting planning documents for permits, can be done online. The mayor said the public can contact the respective departments via phone for questions or for assistance with the city's website.
In general, the mask mandate applies to all city-owned facilities, including City Hall and the Public Safety Building. However, Allender said some city-owned facilities like the Rapid City Public Library, Rapid City Regional Airport and the civic center are governed by their own board of directors — many of which already require face masks.
The Rapid City Public Library requires mouth and nose coverings for people ages 2 and over.
Airport Assistant Director Toni Broom said the airport previously encouraged everyone to wear masks, but in light of the new mandate for city-owned facilities, all airport staff, vendor employees, passengers and visitors will be required to wear masks.
"Up until today, we strongly suggested wearing masks. We have changed the policy to align with the new requirement," Broom said. "We have changed the signs throughout the airport terminal, the on-screen flight displays and make announcements that face masks are required. We will provide face masks to anyone who does not have one on."
The Civic Center does not have a mask mandate for visitors unless the event organizer requires them. Civic Center Advertising Strategist Heather Josnoch said the Civic Center Board of Directors may change that.
"We are governed by an independent board, so we are not mandating masks at this time," Josnoch said. "Our employees are required to wear masks when they are out of their work space and in the building, but for now we are strongly encouraging the public to wear masks and not mandating them. The board may change that in future."
Allender said city recreational facilities like the Roosevelt Swim Center will not require people to wear masks while swimming. However, masks will be required for everyone when not in the water.
Allender said all city staff who work with the public will be required to wear face masks as well. The requirement extends to officers with the Rapid City Police Department, the fire department and paramedics, with few exceptions, the mayor said.
"Each department, such as law enforcement and paramedics, have to make their own assessment of the circumstance," Allender said. "They do have circumstances where they will need to take a mask off in order to communicate effectively with someone. I will leave that up to the discretion of the department directors — the police chief and fire chief. Generally speaking, though, this mask mandate goes for all city employees and the fine detail exceptions have to be worked out by department heads."
Among the measures announced include:
City Council meetings
Citizens attending council and committee meetings will be required to wear masks. Due to COVID-19 social distancing protocols, seating remains extremely limited in Council Chambers. The moving or adding of chairs in Council Chambers will not be allowed.
The council dais will now include plexiglass dividers and council members are encouraged to wear masks walking to and from their seat on the dais and are encouraged to wear masks during council and committee meetings.
As recommended last spring, citizens are encouraged to use online and phone options to conduct business with City Hall and city departments to minimize personal visits to city facilities.
The city advises residents to consider automatic payment of their utility bills and to pay parking tickets online as ways to minimize visits to City Hall. In addition, residents with questions regarding building permits and other city policies should consider calling or e-mailing the individual city department.
Residents are encouraged to use online automatic payment of utility bills by visiting https://selfservice.rcgov.org and clicking on Citizen Self Service on the left hand side for utility bills or by using the city's utility billing "Sure-Pay" system. Call 394-4125 or visit the Water Division's page on the city's website at rcgov.org. If you visit the self-service portal, you will need to know your account number and customer number to register, both of which can be found on your most recent utility bill.
In addition, residents are encouraged to mail in their payment or use the night drop box on the west side of the building, which is available any time of the day.
If you have questions regarding building permits or air quality permits, contact the city's Community Development Department at 394-4120. Customers can also e-mail questions and plan information to firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff can also work with customers for online submittal of plans.
If you have questions regarding development applications, contact the city’s Community Development Department at 394-4120. Customers can also e-mail questions to email@example.com. Staff can also work with customers for online submittal of preliminary applications.
Online public comments
City officials remind the public they can submit online comments for city meetings. In April, the city developed an online public comment form to be accessed at https://www.rcgov.org/68-public-comments-for-meetings/24-public-comment-form.html. The link is also added to the respective council and committee agenda pages and the COVID-19 updates at rcgov.org. Online comments will be included as part of the official meeting record. Members of the public attending the sessions in person can still submit a paper comment form prior to the start of the session.
The public is advised to submit comments by the following deadlines:
- City Council, noon the day of the meeting
- Legal and Finance Committee, 8 a.m. the day of the meeting
- Public Works Committee, 8 a.m. the day of the meeting
- Planning Commission/Zoning Board of Adjustment, 3:30 p.m. the day before the meeting
Contact Nathan Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org.