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Shepherdstown strong: Town council approves police department letter, resolution supporting state reopening plan

By Staff | May 29, 2020

Mayor Jim Auxer, wearing a face mask, greets the town council members at the beginning of the special town council meeting on Zoom on May 21.

SHEPHERDSTOWN — The Shepherdstown Town Council held two special Zoom meetings over the past week-and-a-half to release a resolution in support of Gov. Jim Justice’s six-part plan to reopen various aspects of the state and its economy, which was announced at the end of April.

The governor’s plan gradually reopens different parts of the West Virginia economy, while still encouraging state residents to follow all of the COVID-19 guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. The final copy of the town’s resolution was approved on Tuesday afternoon.

“In keeping with the governor’s West Virginia Strong — The Comeback initiative, the Town of Shepherdstown will begin ‘opening up’ on May 21, 2020, to reignite the local economy and enable local businesses to once again provide exceptional services, products and positive experiences that make Shepherdstown special,” the resolution says. “Mayor Auxer and the Shepherdstown Town Council support the business and local volunteer organizations in their efforts to manage the reopening through careful planning, as the shared primary concern is for the health and well-being of the residents, businesses and visitors, and to ensure them a safe and enjoyable experience in historic Shepherdstown.”

According to the resolution, the mayor and town council “strongly encourage and support” the public and businesses operating in accordance with guidelines from the state, CDC and Jefferson County Health Department. These guidelines include wearing masks, washing hands and maintaining six-foot social distancing in town. While the town cannot enforce these guidelines on the street, it can enforce them if they are mandated by local businesses.

Over the weekend, Auxer said he walked around town handing masks to passersby without masks. Seventy-five percent of pedestrians were not wearing masks, many of which were visitors to town.

“I tried to pass masks out this weekend,” Auxer said, mentioning most passersby agreed to wear a mask after being asked to do so. Unfortunately, one passersby took the mask, but then made it clear that businesses may, in fact, need assistance in enforcing their policies.

“They put the mask on and walked away, and then I said ‘thanks for putting on the mask,’ and they took it off,” Auxer said. “That was the only negative reaction I got.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, SPD Chief of Police Mike King explained how the town would support the resolution, through a letter to local business approved by the town council.

“You as a business owner can require patrons to wear face masks while on your business premises. You may also limit the number of patrons in your business at one time and may require appropriate social distancing,” King said. “We recommend that you post your restrictions as a prominent temporary signage on a door or window.”

If customers refuse to follow store guidelines, business owners have the right to refuse them service and ask them to leave the premises, according to King.

“If the patron refuses to wear a mask and refuses to leave your business premises, please call the police at 911 or the non-emergency number at 304-725-8484. Once an officer arrives, by law you must ask that person to leave again in the presence of the officer,” King said. “If he or she refuses, the officer will order that person to leave or face charges of trespassing under the West Virginia Code or municipal ordinance. If that person still refuses to leave, he or she will be cited or arrested, depending on the person’s actions.”

For more information, call King at 304-876-6036.