Greene County Courthouse to remain open, county offices can use discretion

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Greene County Commissioners said the Greene County Courthouse will remain open for the time being, but will allow county offices to use discretion for their department as the community navigates concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

During Tuesday morning’s meeting of the Board of Commissioners, County Recorder Sarah Bender asked what they should do to protect county employees, especially those especially susceptible to Coronavirus.

Commissioners President Nathan Abrams said the courthouse will remain open based on guidelines from the governor and the president, unless it is otherwise stated at a later date.

But, Abrams said, if the departments have concerns, they can set their office to be appointment only or allow employees to work remotely if they have that ability.

“Our stance is we are not going to close the courthouse,” Abrams said. “But, I don’t feel like we have the authority to tell you -- another elected official -- how to run your office. If we have a bunch of positive cases in the county, then we may have to re-evaluate. But, for right now, we are following the governor and president’s recommendations.”

Greene County Council President Gregg Roudebush attended the meeting to assure the board that he has spoken with other members of the council and they are prepared to back the decision of the commissioners concerning safety of the county staff and community.

Abrams noted one concern is the Greene County Treasurer’s Office.

“This time of year, the treasurer’s office is the busiest outside of the courts,” Abrams said.

With property tax bills set to go out soon, the commissioners and Treasurer Nicole Stahl discussed options to follow the guidelines for social distancing while also ensuring taxpayers are easily able to pay their bills. The treasurer will remain open, but they are nearing the time of year where hundreds of people visit the courthouse to pay their property taxes.

One idea offered by Stahl was to place an anchored, locked box outside the front door of the courthouse, only accessible to treasurer’s office staff. The box is about $3,000.

Roudebush said while he cannot give a definite 7-person yes on behalf of the council, believes that falls under the scope of safety.

The commissioners voted to move forward with the project to ensure it would be available when it is needed.

Greene County Clerk Stuart Dowden noted his office is working on a contingency plan to make sure voters can vote efficiently and safely.

He suggested voters call the Greene County Voter Registration Office to request an absentee ballot. They have ordered additional materials in preparation for an increase in requests due to the suggested social distancing. Also, he noted, please do not lick the envelopes, but instead use water to gently wet the envelope and seal them.

Dowden said there will also be more machines out at each polling location on Election Day in order to help lines move quicker.

He did note concern about polling locations and poll workers. For example, they need a plan if a polling location is closed to the public due to Coronavirus concerns. Also, many of their poll workers are older adults who fall into the age range of concern, so they will need younger people to help out.

The Greene County Voter Registration Office is continuing to work through a plan before early voting starts, and Dowden plans to provide updates to voters in the coming days.

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