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Politics

Bethel City Council members-elect to be sworn in

Bethel City Council Candidates Elect 2021
Olivia Ebertz
/
KYUK
The council members-elect are newcomer Mary “Beth” Hessler, Eric Whitney who has previously sat on city council, and incumbents Conrad “CJ” McCormick and Mark Springer.

During the Oct. 12 Bethel City Council meeting, the newly elected council members will be sworn in. After that, all council members will vote on renewing the city-wide mask mandate and other pandemic mitigation measures.

The sitting council members are expected to vote to accept the results of last week’s election. The council members-elect are newcomer Mary “Beth” Hessler; incumbents Conrad “CJ” McCormick and Mark Springer; and Eric Whitney, who has previously sat on city council. After sitting council members vote to accept the results, all council members will then vote on a series of pandemic measures that come up for renewal every two months.

One item up for consideration is a city-wide mask mandate, which has been in place since September 2020. Bethel’s current mask mandate requires people to wear masks in public, indoor places. Since its inception, the mask mandate has not come up against any opposition among council members. Most have actively supported it. The mask mandate was briefly lifted for vaccinated people this past summer.

The two brand new council members voiced their stances on the mask mandate with KYUK on the campaign trail.

Council member-elect Whitney said that he has supported the city’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts and will continue to do so. His wife is a doctor at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation.

Council member-elect Hessler said during the city council candidates forum that she is “100% in favor of masks and vaccines for those who want them,” but she opposes the government mandate on them. Hessler was the only unvaccinated city council candidate running this year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mask use is both safe and effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Two other pandemic measures are up for reconsideration. The first requires unvaccinated people traveling into Bethel to either get tested within three days of arrival or to quarantine. The other measure prevents water shut off up to a point for Bethel residents who can’t pay their water bills during the pandemic. The city council has capped the amount of debt at $5,000 for residents and at $10,000 for commercial businesses.

Also on the city council agenda is an item that would allow the city to request funding for a new public works building. The city estimates that the building would cost $36,400,000 and is asking the state to fund the entire amount.

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