COLUMBIA, Mo 9/17/20 (Beat Byte) --
The City of Columbia is under fire for breaking its own Covid rules.
The city's Activity and Recreation Center (ARC)
"has been functioning in violation of the City Mask Ordinance since the ordinance went into effect on July 10, 2020. That's two months of violation
thus far," Rebecca DeCourley and Paul Berg
emailed city officials including 4th Ward Councilman Ian Thomas
and Boone County Health Department director Stephanie Browning
"All I am hearing is excuses about how hard it is to comply
," the complainants explained. "Something being hard or difficult is not an excuse not to do it. It just means you may have to work harder."
ARC staff fail to enforce rules about social distancing and mask use, notably on the indoor track, and often fail to wear masks themselves, Berg and DeCourley said.
ARC administrators also fail to communicate mask rules to visitors. Lacking enforcement, ARC patrons don't social distance or wear masks when required.
"The occurrences at the ARC are regular, not exceptions," DeCourley told Thomas and Browning. "I am writing to you to hold the ARC accountable for reasonable mask ordinance compliance."
DeCourley first emailed ARC Recreation Services Manager Erika Coffman and Thomas August 11. Thomas replied that day.
"I would prefer to see masks required on the track, but I understand the difficulty staff would have in enforcing it," he said.
After a second August 25 complaint, Coffman replied August 29.
"I want to apologize for not responding to your email earlier this month," she told DeCourley, detailing "adjustments to our operations since the mask order went into effect" that include additional signs and periodic reminders over the ARC intercom system about "the rules of wearing a mask."
But DeCourley says neither she nor her teenage children have ever heard the reminders, and the signs don't specifically address the indoor track. She offered solutions of her own that included appropriate spacing of gym equipment and indoor track participants.
Erika Coffman "noted my concerns about exercise stations that are not 6-foot distanced from the track, but I have not seen any changes to those stations," DeCourley explained. "Those spaces are still not in compliance with the Ordinance
A month of frustration later, DeCourley and Berg contacted local media including the Heart Beat, Missourian, and Columbia Tribune.
"The responses I have received communicate to me that City ordinances do not require compliance if it is inconvenient," DeCourley said. "I am disappointed and concerned about this message, that City ordinances are optional, especially if it takes effort to comply."