County shutters admin, courthouse and attorney buildings to the public

Wednesday, March 18, 2020
The Clay County Board of Supervisors deliberate over closing key county buildings during an emergency meeting Wednesday at noon.
Photos by Joseph Hopper

The Clay County Board of Supervisors met alongside county department heads Wednesday at noon to discuss their incident response plan for COVID-19 which was led by Clay County Emergency Manager Eric Tigges.

“I’m happy to report we established a task force that involves city leaders from across Clay County, our emergency responders, Spencer Hospital, public health, everybody we’re meeting daily,” Tigges said. “It’s been good to just get the information going. As of this moment we don’t currently have any cases of coronavirus within Clay County but that is obviously a very fluid situation. It’s been an unprecedented time. … This is a massive undertaking and we cannot take too lightly the social distancing and the closing down of public spaces and all that kind of stuff.

He continued, “So I think it’s important for us to continue to serve the citizens of Clay County but I also think it’s important that we take into account the safety of our residents, the safety of our staff and what we are at the end of the day, which is county government. I’m going to recommend to the board that we would close the Clay County buildings to walk in traffic, close the lobby, that we would stay here and that we would work and would do so via telephone, email and online. … The good news is most of the services we provide our citizens can be done remotely. So I think that following the governor's order it’s prudent to do that. I think if there was an absolute exception where someone had to come in you could do so by appointment and they could come in at the discretion of the department head.”

Clay County Emergency Manager Eric Tigges speaks to the county supervisors Wednesday.

During the discussion County Supervisor Burlin Matthews noted counties across the country are choosing to close their courthouses and county buildings. A consensus was reached that additional screening, such as using a temporal scanner, would take place for those required to enter county buildings during the closure.

County officials discussed the impact of limiting building access to county departments, narrowing down if services can be handled by mail or online with some business still handled in person through appointment via special exception.

“The DOT has already extended the driver’s license and registrations and stuff, that’s stuff that can be done online too,” Clay County Sheriff Chris Raveling said. “That’s a non-issue at this point. Someone’s not going to get a ticket for expired driver’s license if they’re within this time frame or license plates, new cars they put until April 20 I think is the deadline that the governor said.”

“We also have candidates that can still try to get themselves on a ballot until the 25th of March,” Clay County Auditor Marge Pitts said. “I don’t have any idea who might be interested in putting themselves on a ballot, so then we would have to be by appointment.”

The board voted unanimously to approve the immediate and indefinite closure of the Clay County Administration Building, Clay County Courthouse, Clay County Attorney’s Office and Secondary Roads buildings allowing department heads or the Clerk of Courts discretion in making special exceptions entry into the buildings.

“My thought is I would just as soon close it down to the public with all the forms of communication we have nowadays I don’t think anybody except someone that needs to be working a piece of equipment and our staff is all that needs to be here,” Supervisor Chair Randy Swanson said.

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