A revised local ordinance on disease control passed its second reading by the Petersburg borough assembly Tuesday.
The borough has proposed changing and updating a local law on disease control already on the books that dates back to 1973. That existing ordinance gives the authority to the borough’s health officer to screen people for infectious disease, require quarantine and force vaccination for people coming to Petersburg or anyone living here. This revision removes some antiquated language on detention of immigrants, removes the forced vaccination language and sets standards for a local health order. As drafted, either the borough assembly or borough manager would have oversight of the health officer’s use of disease control powers.
Opponents say the proposed ordinance could lead to abuse of power by a health officer. They cite state law that requires a court order to require quarantine or isolation for an individual
Dana Thynes of Kupreanof suggested starting again with this ordinance revision.
“When I read over the disease ordinance all I see is mention of the power of the health officer but nothing about the rights of citizens,” Thynes said. “This looks like color of law to me. Where are the warrants, the written orders from a judge? There are problems with the new disease ordinance but to me the primary ones are the lack of due process, the lack of a time limit, the lack of a written order and the of the right of appeal.”
Tuesday was the public hearing on this revision and several spoke out against the draft ordinance.
The assembly approved some wording changes proposed by assembly Bob Lynn.
One change makes it clear public health screening could be for anyone coming into Petersburg from elsewhere, including residents or non-residents. Another inserts some language on due process for someone ordered to quarantine.
Lynn explained that he checked with the borough’s attorney about adding the language.
“She believes that we’re covered with the other ordinance we have and with the due process that’s already in the borough code that we could get by without it,” Lynn said. “The only thing this does is clarify it and put a piece of that in this code. She didn’t want to go any farther than what this language was because she didn’t, we’d have to go back and make amendments to quite a few other ordinances.”
Lynn’s proposed language requires reasonable notice of a health directive, evidence to support a health order and opportunity to object to involuntary quarantine.
The proposed ordinance would create a 500 dollar fine for not complying with a directive from the health officer
Besides the amendments the assembly had no other discussion on the revised ordinance and passed it unanimously in its second reading. It requires one more approval before taking effect.
That’s also the case for an ordinance revision on garbage collection fees, fines for unsecured trash and other changes. That passed second reading unanimously and it would mean rate hikes of three percent a year each year for the next five years. It will also mean reduction of recycling collection to every other week.