SALEM, N.H. — The Salem Board of Selectmen declined to pass an ordinance mandating face coverings be worn by people in town after three selectmen — Bob Bryant, Lisa Withrow and Cathy Stacey — said they would not approve the measure.

The ordinance proposal was refined over the past week to apply only to people in businesses where social distancing could not happen. Selectman Jim Keller gave a short presentation on the ordinance he proposed before the board took 50 minutes of public comment.

There were people against the measure, others in favor of it, and still others who had general questions about enforcement.

Parents called and asked if they would be responsible if their child took off their face covering, including a mother who was worried about her 3-year-old at a Salem daycare.

The three board members against the move cited enforcement as the biggest issue. They said it should be up to businesses to decide what is best for their employees and customers when potentially requiring masks.

"I'm not in support, mainly because I don't think it is enforceable," Bryant said.

He said he spoke with Salem Prosecutor Jason Grosky, who said he would likely not enforce any fines.

"In speaking with (Grosky) directly, I believe he wouldn't even bring these forward, so the fines will not be collected," Bryant said.

Lisa Withrow added, "This should be up to the businesses and we shouldn't be adding burden to them. Again with the enforcement, I think only Salem residents will be punished by this because, as Bob said, people are going to walk out of town and throw it out."

Stacey agreed, "It's all about personal responsibility."

Stacey clarified that this wasn't necessarily just a problem because Salem is on the border of Massachusetts. 

"You can't tell me it's all people from Massachusetts not wearing masks ... If you think that people from New Hampshire are all wearing masks, I don't think so," Stacey said.

After the three selectmen expressed they would not approve the ordinance the phone line went dead, Chairman Michael Lyons said. 

"Thank you to the board and the public for listening and discussing. I think it is a pretty important topic," Keller said, adding his opinion still stood.

Town Manager Chris Dillon said the town received 41 emails and 12 calls about the proposal outside of the meeting. Of the emails 31 were against the proposal in some form and nine that were for the proposal, he said.

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