Price County residents protest amending local health officers dutiesSubmitted: 06/16/2020
Rachael Eyler
Rachael Eyler
Weekend Anchor / Reporter

Price County residents protest amending local health officers duties
PHILLIPS - Business owners and community members of Price county gathered outside the courthouse to protest an ordinance that would amend the local health officers duties during a public health emergency.

If approved the ordinance would give power to the head of the health department to make the decision if a business should be closed or not due to public health concerns.

The ordinance was raised over the effects of COVID-19.

For Price Co. COVID-19 didn't hit the area too hard. Health officials previously confirmed only two positive cases.

However, with tourism season local officials still worry about a possible outbreak.

But community members are concerned over the execution of the ordinance. One resident, Janene Ravet says that changing the job description of the health department could increase the possibility of overstepping. 

"I'm fearful that there's a couple of people at the top of the board that feel they have a little bit too much power and that can wield that power and not listen to the people," Ravet said.

Although the public could attend in person, seating was limited and many were asked to join via teleconference. But Janene Ravet, who did get in, ended up being escorted out.

"They felt I was not abiding by the rules and it's not unconstitutional as far as I thought," Ravet added. "It's an open meeting open to the public and I had a page and a half statement prepared and I wasn't allowed to finish it."

Non-essential businesses who already took a hit from closing for three months worry that the ordinance can shut them down again and they won't be able to survive.

"For your average small business owner, living their dream in this little town, this is a death note," former business owner, Linda Dayton said. "I am sick of the government trying to decide who is essential and who is not."

The board voted in a 7-6 decision to table a vote on the ordinance for six months. Those opposed protesters say for now the decision is better than being passed.

"We're already economically depressed and people are struggling under normal situations," Ravet added. "Business and family's, I believe, can make decisions for themselves on how to open their business safely, keep their business open safely regardless of any kind of pandemic."

The decision to table the vote can be reversed if it is brought up at the next board meeting which will be in 30 days.

Price Co. board officials were not available for comment. 

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