Daviess County will be reopening the courthouse on June 8 to more regular operations with the public.
The Daviess County Commissioners unanimously approved the reopening with a handful of conditions during Tuesday’s meeting.
“We feel it is time,” said president of the Daviess County Commissioners Nathan Gabhart. “We are really content with what we have been seeing as far as the number of people getting the virus and we are ready to get back to normal.”
The courthouse won’t exactly be operating as normal. The coronavirus will still have an impact on the operations and some physical changes coming to the offices.
“We will still have people coming through the deputy’s station when they enter and have their temperature taken,” said Gabhart. “We will also be following the recommendations from the health department on the operations. That includes strongly suggesting that people visiting the courthouse wear masks. We are not requiring them but really recommending face coverings.”
The county does have some employees, who in terms of age, fall into the category of people who should avoid exposure to COVID-19.
“We are going to leave it up to the department heads and office holders to determine how they will handle that,” said Gabhart.
To try and help limit exposure of employees to possible coronavirus, the county has added 60 plexiglass pieces throughout the courthouse. Those additions were also done at the suggestion of the health department. The work was done by Chapman Glass at a cost of $7,656.25.
“Those were all custom fitted,” said courthouse maintenance supervisor Scott Schnarr. “They have been installed in every office.”
The courthouse was under modified operation for several weeks. Most employees worked from home and if a person needed to deal with an office directly, the deputies at the east door would work as liaisons between the person and the office.
“We received no complaints from the constituents about the operation of the courthouse during this time,” said Gabhart.
One thing that may make the adjustments easier is that Daviess County has received more than $1 million from the CARES Act to pay for COVID-19 related expenses.
“There has been $1 million set aside without anyone asking us what we needed,” said Gabhart. “This includes both the county and the township trustees.”
Officials say the money will be used to pay for the plexiglass additions. It can also go to COVID-19 related overtime, personal protection equipment and additional costs from people working remotely.
“I can see around $50,000 to $75,000 in expenses we’ve had that are tied to the virus,” said Gabhart. “We are going to try and limit our spending to those things we need. We are going to be frugal and not going to spend this money just because we have it. The truth is I cannot see us getting anywhere close to that $1 million in what we spend.”
The county will again be working closely with the health department and the local emergency management agency on finding the needs and documenting the expenditures.
Meanwhile, one small section of the courthouse has reopened ahead of schedule. The clerk’s office has opened an early voting office in the basement of the courthouse. That area will be open for people to vote through next Monday at noon. Early voters can come to the courthouse and cast ballots from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.