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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/JASON IVESTER Rogers City Hall; stock art photographed on Monday, April 11, 2016

ROGERS -- The Rogers City Council unanimously passed an ordinance requiring anti-coronavirus masks, effective immediately upon its passage Monday afternoon.

The council passed the ordinance 8-0 largely at the request of local businesses, Mayor Greg Hines said after passage. Some local merchants monitored the meeting by video and put signs up about the ordinance as soon as it was approved, he said.

"Our business owners wanted that backup, to have a copy of a city ordinance on their wall," Hines said. "If that's the role we have to play, so be it."

The ordinance adopted was the model ordinance approved by the governor in consultation with the Arkansas Municipal League, which is a lobby representing cities, and the state Department of Health. The ordinance carries no civil or criminal penalty, but it make a violator vulnerable to legal action if he or she repeatedly offends.

Upon an offense by a customer who refuses to wear a mask, a business owner can choose whether or not to have the customer notified he's no longer welcome at the business without wearing one. If the customer comes back at a later time and repeats the offense, Hines said, the offender can then be charged with criminal trespass, a crime already on the books. That Class B misdemeanor will result in a citation and not an arrest, Hines said, and if convicted will almost always be punished by no more than a fine. The maximum penalty is 90 days in jail but that is typically applied only in severe and repeated cases, he said.

The business effects of the pandemic are serious and persistent, Hines said. "I don't think this is going to be a one-week, two-week or one-month thing," he said. "I think this is going to be a months-long thing. It's a public health matter and it's an economic one too. I think we've done enough damage to our businesses."

In a related matter, Springdale will hand out another 100,000 masks at a time and place to be announced soon. The distribution is expected to take place later this week.

The City Council approved purchasing and handing out 100,000 disposable masks in late June. "We handed out all of them in two four-hour days," Mayor Doug Sprouse said during a meeting Monday of the Committee of the Whole. Of those 100,000 masks, 82,000 went out in a drive-through line operated by the city, Sprouse said.

Springdale's council also took up the topic of whether to adopt the mask ordinance but the idea met with opposition from council members. A proposed non-binding resolution to encourage the wearing of masks was tabled until the committee's next meeting.

Doug Thompson can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @NWADoug.

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