KXAN Austin

‘You’re turning neighbor against neighbor’: Some Fredericksburg business owners want COVID-19 complaint system removed

FREDERICKSBURG, Texas (KXAN) — A COVID-19 complaint system in Fredericksburg has some business owners concerned. It’s an online portal where people can report a mask or occupancy concern to the city.

City Manager Kent Myers says it’s a way to streamline the complaint process and educate business owners about the city’s mask mandate.

He says when the mayor first issued the mandate in June, complaints started rolling in about businesses not complying.

“Instead of having these phone calls and emails going to various city offices, we have a portal on our city website called a request tracker where citizens can register their concerns on our website for high weeds, illegal signs—any concerns they have,” Myers explained. “So, we just added COVID-19 as an additional concern that our citizens can report on.”

He says there were about 30 other complaint categories, and the city did not have to pay for adding extra COVID-19 categories. Myers says the categories were added just over a month ago and have received an average of 12 complaints per week.

Some, like business owner Rosemary Estenson, aren’t happy with the addition.

“Oh my stars, you have got to be kidding, who was responsible for that decision?” Estenson said as she recalled her initial reaction to the news.

She’s been in Fredericksburg for more than 30 years and says it has been a struggle keeping her five businesses afloat for the past nine months.

“We offered curbside, we had to cut back on our employees. Some of them we could hire back, some of them we still can’t,” Estenson said. “We’ve done the numbers every way but Sunday to make it work so we can bring people back.”

Estenson says although all her employees wear masks, she doesn’t agree with the online reporting tool.

“For goodness sakes, you’re turning neighbor against neighbor… What’s the good of it? What are you going to do with the information?” she said.

Myers says city staff use the information to educate business owners.

“We do not take any sort of enforcement action in terms of fining them or citing them or anything else. We just mainly pass that information along to them, the complaints that we have received on our website,” he said.

Estenson says the portal is adding stress to the community.

“It needs to go away. They need to take it off of our website,” she said.

Estenson and others plan to speak during public comment at Monday night’s city council meeting. You can tune in on Facebook.