Sussex County facilities to remain closed in phase 2

GEORGETOWN — While phased, limited opening will be permitted, the Sussex County administration building and other county buildings will remain off-limits to the public during initial stages of Delaware’s Phase 2 reopening from the COVID-19 pandemic.

During County Council’s teleconference session Tuesday, County Administrator Todd Lawson offered his recommendation that county facilities remain closed during this period.

Facial coverings, a 6-foot social distancing minimum, a 50-person maximum for indoor gatherings and a 60% of fire occupancy limit will be effective June 15 under the Phase 2 guidelines announced earlier in June by Gov. John Carney.

“Using these guidelines, I still recommend that we continue to keep county admin office buildings and county facilities closed to the public during the initial stages of the Phase 2 reopening process,” said Mr. Lawson. “We will begin to put procedures in place should we allow the public to participate in person for upcoming public hearings.”

The county has brought select employees back into the administration building to perform their duties full time.

“However, we are not at the point that all employees should return back to their offices. The Phase 2 guidelines recommend that employees who can telework should continue to telework. In those instances, we have learned through the COVID-19 closure that many employees are efficient in working from home,” Mr. Lawson said.

The first scheduled public hearing before County Council is June 23, for the review of the county’s proposed fiscal year 2021 budget.

“If the council wants to start opening up the meetings to the public, the June 23 meeting would be the earliest possible meeting we should host the public in attendance,” said Mr. Lawson. “We would take the proper steps to ensure that they are screened, spreading people out in the audience, as well as the chamber and the council members on the dais. We would continue to operate under this arrangement for the hearings later in the month and moving forward into July until restrictions are further lifted. I would anticipate if the trends continue to move in a positive direction that we would start to see talk about Phase 3 … which would be very much coming from Phase 1 to Phase 2, lifting of specific restrictions.”

Subsequently, the Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission meeting June 25 and the County Council meeting June 30 also have scheduled public hearings.

“Hosting a council meeting without a public hearing is fairly straightforward,” said Mr. Lawson. “We generally do not have a crowd when there is no hearing so we likely would not reach our seating capacity. However, hosting a council meeting with a public hearing will require significant planning, and we need to be prepared for every possibility.”

The public must be screened before coming into the building. If chambers fill up to the permitted capacity, overflow seating would be required.

“If we fill up the overflow seating, then what?” Mr. Lawson said.

Additionally, the county may consider a specific schedule where hearings are assigned designated times so people do not show up and wait for their application to be heard. “For public hearings, we will also be required to have a telephone conference line for outsiders to comment during the public hearing. If they want to present materials remotely, we will need to contemplate that requirement, as well,” Mr. Lawson said.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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