County offices will be opening for business Thursday, May 14, though with some restrictions.
“We have established several means to protect staff and citizens as we open up to the public,” said County Manager Stan Kelley.
Kelley said the Board of Commissioners decided on a phased approach “based on Gov. Kemp’s Executive Orders and the President’s guidance on ‘Opening Up America Again.’”
“We felt it was safe to reopen on a limited basis that allows us to maintain social distancing and still facilitate the needs of the public,” said BOC Chairman Chris Dockery. “Before taking the next step we will assess the situation, and hopefully we can open without restrictions after June 12.”
There has already been a trial run for the reopening procedures. On May 7, people were allowed to enter the building’s Tax Commissioner’s office to complete title transfers.
The governor’s “grace period” was set to expire May 15, and those who had purchased vehicles from another individual, rather than a dealer, needed to complete the title transfer prior to that date or be fined.
“If we waited to reopen on the 13th…that would only give us two days to get caught up before penalties kick in,” said Tax Commissioner Rachel Pruitt.
“Mrs. Pruitt was correct in her assumption,” Kelley said. “In the first two days of open business, the office completed 152 title transfers and numerous other transactions.”
Many of the restrictions under which the tax and tag office reopened will apply generally to the Administration Building.
“In an effort to protect our employees and the public, we have created a variety of protective measures,” said Kelley. “We have installed safety glass on counter-top areas where the public is served. We are requiring employees who have direct contact with the public to wear protective masks and to continuously sanitize surfaces and other high-contact areas. We are not allowing more than 10 persons in a single location and have established measures to insure social distancing is adhered to inside our facilities.”
Additionally, since each office is configured differently, Kelley said he asked each department to develop a plan to fit their situation.
The Animal Shelter is only seeing walk-in customers by appointment. Park & Rec’s Community Center will reopen, but no team sports will be allowed to take place. The meeting room can be rented, but only for a maximum of 10 people. The Senior Center will not be open for activities, but will continue to deliver home-bound meals.
All other county facilities will be open, including Environmental Health, Water Authority, Sheriff’s Office, Planning, Elections and Registration, Extension Office, Development Authority, Public Works and the county’s maintenance shop and Road Dept.
“It’s best for people to contact them directly prior to coming to get details,” Kelley said. “We are still encouraging people to conduct county business online or by telephone unless it is absolutely necessary to come in-person, but we are open for those who must conduct business in-person beginning May 14.”
The Justice Center falls under the Judicial Emergency Order, and will remain closed at this time.
Next Tuesday, May 19, the BOC will conduct its first in-person public meeting since March. The meeting will be open to the public, Kelley said, but “with measures to restrict the number of people in a single location to 10 or less.”
That means the five commissioners, two clerks, county attorney, county manager and a representative from the press can be present in the Board Room. Staff will be in the small conference room adjacent to the Board Room, and any members of the public will be be able to watch the meeting in the Administration Building’s downstairs lobby.
Kelley said he did not expect many people to attend the meeting, but there will be a way provided for the public to participate during the public comment portion of the meeting.