County courthouse phased re-opening plan approved
COUNTY – Shelby County has begun the process of re-opening the courthouse in Harlan in a two-phased approach as the city, county and state start the process of lifting restrictions amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Shelby County Board of Supervisors Thursday, May 28 approved a courthouse re-opening plan, that initially calls for limited access by appointment only to courthouse offices beginning June 1 through June 16, following by a tentative target date of June 17 for re-opening to foot traffic.
The county will follow all mitigation guidelines such as requiring appointments, social distancing, encouraging mask usage, practicing hygiene measures and cleaning and sanitizing the building multiple times daily.
“It’s going to be a phased approach,” said supervisor Steve Kenkel. “We will have two phases.”
Residents who have courthouse business can make an appointment now to visit an office by calling that office. Staff will be screening callers to see if the business can be handled online or over the phone, but will be allowing visitors to the courthouse if needed. Health questions will be asked.
Visitors are being encouraged to wear masks in the building. The doors will remain locked, and visitors when arriving for an appointment will be escorted to the office to take care of business. Courthouse hours are 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., with no visitors allowed in the building after 4 p.m.
Departments will keep record of the name, address and contact information for every visitor in the building.
“It’s highly recommended but not mandatory” that visitors wear masks,” said Kenkel.
Plexiglass dividers have been installed in areas where courthouse employees are dealing with the public.
County officials will meet on June 16 to determine if the tentative opening date of June 17 for foot traffic will be fully implemented. That decision can change depending on if the county feels ready and has enough PPE (personal protective equipment) on hand.
“We have to protect our employees first and foremost,” said Kenkel.
In addition, the county board of supervisors has decided to continue meeting for the time being in an online format through Zoom. While the goal is to eventually return to in-person meetings, the guidelines of having limited individuals in the supervisors board room with six-foot social distancing measures makes it impractical at this time as the room is too small.
Alternate locations may be sought, officials said, and the public will be notified of any changes.
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