Majority of county buildings closed to public access

Most Grays Harbor County government facilities are closed to the public, effective as of Monday at 5 p.m., with access only available to employees.

County Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution Monday morning to address the threat of further transmission of COVID-19.

All county facilities, except the county courthouse in Montesano and the Pearsall Building in Aberdeen, are closed to the public through at least April 3, when the board of commissioners will determine if an extension of the closure is necessary.

In the case of necessary face-to-face appointments, they will need to be scheduled in advance and held under public health guidelines.

Affected facilities including the county administration building in Montesano, the forestry building, the Sheriff’s Office and jail, Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds buildings, county road shops and county water and solid waste facilities.

Public access to the Pearsall Building will be for District Court proceedings, as decided by the presiding judge, and for “essential public health services to be determined by the Public Health Director,” read the resolution.

The Building and Planning Department will be closed to the public through Friday, March 20, to develop procedures to assist the public through means other than face-to-face contact.

Though the administration building is closed, the Treasurer, Auditor and Assessor offices are developing procedures to process real estate transactions and “other necessary functions without face-to-face interactions with the public so as to lessen the impact of the building closures,” according to the resolution.

The Superior Court and District Court presiding judges will make independent decisions concerning the operations of the courts and the potential restriction of public access to the courthouse and Pearsall Building.

Sheriff Rick Scott told county commissioners Monday morning he is developing a strategy plan including all departments.

“We’re going to continue to work with department heads and elected officials to put together a single point contact message to send to citizens so they know what government is going to look like in the days and weeks to come, and what offices will be open and to what extent,” Sheriff Rick Scott told the commissioners Monday.

“It just needs to be a snapshot of what your office will look like,” said Scott, saying it’s up to each department what to do with their own offices.

Monday’s meeting followed an emergency planning meeting Saturday, where the board met with elected officials and department heads to discuss how to protect the public and county workers from the spread of COVID-19.

“Our goal is to be as open and transparent as we can, but we also don’t want to take the risk of passing along any germs to employees as well as to the public,” Commissioner Vickie Raines said at the Saturday meeting. “We’re only doing this because we want to keep the public safe and keep our staff able to do business.”

The commission members and officials recognize that there will be certain vital services that will continue for the public.

“My concern would be for the protection orders,” said county Clerk Kim Foster. “Those people need to be able to at least fill out the paperwork and submit that paperwork to us.”

“That’s just one example of essential services that we can’t just completely terminate,” Superior Court Judge David Edwards said Saturday. “I’ve already taken steps to try to suspend as much of the court docket business as I can. … But there are some court hearings that we are going to need to continue on a daily basis.”