ALBANY — Individuals entering county buildings, including the Government Center and libraries, would be required to wear a face mask under an ordinance passed Monday by the Dougherty County Commission.

Commissioners unanimously passed the ordinance, planned to be a joint measure with the Albany City Commission, during a meeting in which they also approved equipment to clean the air in the county’s courtrooms.

City commissioners are scheduled to take up the measure during their Tuesday meeting.

County Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas said the requirement is meant to protect county employees, as well as first responders who are frequently inside public buildings, from exposure to the coronavirus. The Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office provides security for the Judicial Building and will be exposed to members of the public entering to conduct court business once it re-opens.

The mask requirement would not be in violation of Gov. Brian Kemp’s coronavirus orders, Cohilas said, as local governments are allowed to issue protective orders that apply to their facilities.

Commissioners also approved ionizers for the Judicial Building at a cost of $25,380.

The equipment will clean the air filtered through the air systems. The ionizers should clean the air of impurities such as mold and viruses, including the coronavirus, commissioners were told.

Commissioner Russell Gray, who cast the only vote against the purchase, questioned whether there is evidence showing the units would be effective for large areas such as courtrooms. With the required safety measures in place, including requiring face masks, social distancing and health screenings, Gray asked whether the ionizers were necessary.

“That alone should be enough to make a substantial dent in it,” he said of the measures and their impact on limiting exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. “By the time they are installed, there will be a down slide (in cases of the virus).

“I’m all for protecting the public, but I don’t know whether the costs are worth it.”

Cohilas said that available literature indicates the units are effective in removing coronaviruses, including Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. Gray suggested seeking additional information about the effectiveness of the equipment in the application in a courtroom.

“We believe this technical design is made to make the air safer,” County Administrator Michael McCoy said.

In other business commissioners:

♦ Approved the purchase of a 2020 John Deere skid steer at a cost of $96,934 and a Caterpillar motor grader at a cost of $151,904 for the Public Works Department;

♦ Heard and approved a recommendation from District Attorney Gregory Edwards to apply for a $340,000 federal grant with no matching funding required for combating violent crime and gangs. Edwards said the grant would be used to provide cameras in high-crime areas and equipment for employees in his office.

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