By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
The new normal begins Friday in Jefferson County as the County Commission reopens its courthouses and county facilities. The commission’s order to close county facilities to the public expires Thursday.
“You’ll see some changes when you come in the courthouse,” county manager Tony Petelos said. “We’re doing everything that we possibly can to protect our employees and to protect the public.”
An emergency commission meeting was to have been held Wednesday, but that was canceled in a press release announcing the reopening, which comes with some changes.
“General Services for the last two weeks has been building Plexiglass panels in front of all the counters so that our employees are behind the Plexiglass panel,” Petelos said. “We’re still asking our employees to work remotely when possible. Also, we’re going to ask the public to do as much business with the county online without having to come to the courthouse.”
All visitors to county facilities are required to wear protective face masks or some type of facial covering. Staffers will wear masks and gloves.
The county’s judicial branch is unaffected by the reopening of county facilities as judges have not decided when cases will be heard.
The canceled emergency meeting likely would have been a platform for commissioners to discuss the county’s share of the $2 trillion stimulus bill, the Cares Act. Jefferson County’s share, $115 million, was given to blunt the impact of an economic downturn set in motion by the global coronavirus pandemic.
Petelos said he had taken part in a conference call with the National Association of Counties about those funds. “We’re looking now to see what the rules of engagement are on those before we can do anything with that,” he said. “It can’t supplement lost budgets or revenues.”