Kewaunee County plans to reopen government buildings to public June 8
KEWAUNEE – Kewaunee County tentatively plans to reopen its government buildings to the public for the first time in two and a half months at 8 a.m. June 8, but it'll happen with special procedures to protect against COVID-19 in place for staff and visitors.
All county buildings and facilities were closed to the public March 20 under an emergency order issued by County Administrator Scott Feldt and then-County Board Chairperson Robert Weidner to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. That came three days after the board approved a resolution declaring a county public health emergency and giving the chairperson and administrator the authority to issue health-related emergency orders.
The order limited access to the county courthouse to two hours a day Mondays through Fridays for critical court proceedings and document filings. County department offices could be visited by appointment only and requests were considered on a case-by-case basis. County employees were expected to continue working but could do so remotely if possible.
Feldt said reopening the county's four main buildings — the courthouse, administration and highway/parks buildings in Kewaunee and Emergency Management/Land & Water Conservation offices at the county fairgrounds in Luxemburg — started with a phasing-in process this week. The procedures were determined in discussions with Cindy Kinnard, the county Public Health Director, maintenance director Greg Gabriel, County Board Chairperson Dan Olson and county department heads.
To start, each department brought half their staffs back to their buildings this week, to be followed by full staffing starting June 1, with exceptions for employees who have extra vulnerability to the virus, for example. All will use the main entrance for their building, the only entrance that will be open, and have their body temperatures taken, answer COVID-19 screening questions and sanitize their hands at the entrance before being allowed to report to their jobs.
Members of the public will go through a similar procedure when they visit the county buildings. Feldt said the vestibule of each building will have a phone with a list of extension numbers for the departments. Visitors will call the department they wish to go to; a department worker will come to the entrance and administer the screening and temperature check. If all is well, the visitor will sanitize their hands and be escorted to the office. When the visitor is ready to leave, they will be escorted out of the building.
"We feel we can open our offices, serve the public and keep staff safe if we follow these procedures," Feldt said.
Feldt said he and Olson decided that phasing in the re-openings gives the county the chance to make sure the procedures work properly.
"Because the safety of county staff and the public are of paramount importance to (Olson), he's saying, let's phase it in," Feldt said. "We want to take a very careful and measured approach."
The plan can change if a large surge of positive COVID-19 tests strike the county, which has reported increases of two positive in each of the past two weeks as of Tuesday, for a total of 33.
On a related note, during its May 19 meeting the County Board unanimously approved moving its regular monthly meetings back to their room in the Administration Building, but that may not happen right away. However, staying in the temporary location may allow the public to return.
The board held its April and May meetings in Expo Hall at the county fairgrounds, a larger space that made it easier for supervisors and staff to practice social distancing. The public was not allowed to attend but could submit comments in writing and watch live meetings online.
Olson proposed the board's return to its usual meeting spot and was hopeful the next one, June 16, could do that. But Feldt said as of Tuesday, health guidelines will keep the meeting at Expo Hall at least one more time.
"I was assuming (when proposing the return) we could follow the guidelines to go back," Olson said. "But we're going to have to measure some things … If we can't follow the guidelines, we'll have to reassess."
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected]
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This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Kewaunee County plans to reopen government buildings to public June 8