Sussex County to resume limited public access to facilities, meetings

GEORGETOWN – Temperature checks, face masks, physical distancing and limited access are key components in Sussex County government’s phased reopening of the County Administration Building — the multi-office hub on The Circle in Georgetown that has been closed to the public for more than three months during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

At Tuesday’s teleconference county council meeting, Sussex County Administrator Todd Lawson mapped out the county’s plans for the limited reopening effective Monday. Recommendations were formulated through conversations with senior staff and directors.

“Our recommendations are based on a balance between the safety of the staff and the public we are serving and providing necessary services to keep the county operating efficiently,” said Mr. Lawson. “Reopening is really a misnomer. The only facility that is reopening its doors is the county admin building on The Circle and we are doing so in a limited fashion. The county has been open and performing our services throughout the COVID crisis.”

Starting Monday, limited public access to the County Administrative Building, and in-person access to public meetings of county council, planning & zoning commission and board of adjustment will resume under strict social/physical distancing provisions.

During the shutdown, a wall has been added past the security area in the first-floor lobby.

Those with business at the county’s main offices will be allowed access by appointment only for most services, though walk-ins will be allowed — limited to a few customers at a time — for building permit services and payments only.

Electronic transmittal of documents, as well as drop-off and pick-up service and remote participation of public meetings and hearings, will continue for individuals desiring minimal contact.

Visitors to the county administration building will go through the usual security checks as before, plus a wellness screening that includes a series of questions and a no-touch temperature reading taken by a thermal camera, Mr. Lawson said.

Face masks are required when entering the building. Individuals without masks or who exhibit symptoms of illness, including fever, will not be permitted entry.

During the pandemic, the county has conducted meetings of county council and others via teleconference and live-streaming.

One of the biggest issues is how to open council chambers for hearings and meetings.

In the initial reopening phase of the County Administration Building, the council chambers will be able to accommodate several dozen persons. Members of the public attending these meetings will be escorted by security staff to assigned seating with proper social distancing. Family members may sit together without social distancing but must remain 6 feet from any other person in the chambers.

“We still believe we can get approximately 30 people in the council chambers, spaced 6 feet apart,” said Mr. Lawson.

The building permit counter will reopen with significant restrictions.

Only three customers will be allowed at one time at the building permit counter, and customers will be limited to only three transactions per customer.

“The reason we are doing that, a lot of times companies will come in and have a significant number of permits that they want to have processed at once, sometimes in excess of five to 10 individual permits, monopolizing a clerk for over an hour to have those permits processed,” said Mr. Lawson. “We can’t afford to do that at this point because of the limited number of customers and transactions that we are trying to maintain to keep people moving through the lines.”

For more information and the latest county operations information, visit www.sussexcountyde.gov/June2020-reopening.


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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