Wilbarger County offices will now be operating by appointment only. Access to the courthouse will be limited after the Wilbarger County Commissioners held an emergency meeting Monday to discuss the coronavirus.
Judge Greg Tyra asked the Commissioners Court to ratify a declaration of emergency last Monday, which he had proclaimed earlier. The declaration would expire after seven days without commissioners’ approval. The court then unanimously approved the declaration.
The court then discussed what steps they should take to limit coronavirus spread.
Tyra said the push was to limit the spread of the virus, “and we ought to do our part.”
“Do you think we should close the courthouse?” commissioner John Wright asked.
“I think all of the other businesses in town are closing their offices. The drawback for us, the bank and city Hall, they’ve all go drive-up windows and we don’t,” Tyra replied. “So, we will have to station somebody at a door and screen everybody. It would be where you ‘d call whatever office you need and make an appointment.”
Wright asked if the judge had discussed the closing with other elected official and the courts.
“The fact of the matter is the decision lies right here as to whether you want to close the building or not,” Tyra said. “I have not talked to anyone else and won’t unless you decide to do it first.”
Wright asked election clerk Marylou Case how many people the County Clerk’s office usually has come in.
Case said most of the office’s business was by phone or internet, but there were still people that needed to come in-person, such as for marriage licenses.
“Normally when I look over there, I see three or four people plus employees,” Wright said. “And you usually have three or four down in the tax assessor’s office.”
Tyra said that the governor had waived registration requirements and had closed the driver’s license office to the public.
“It’s going to be a hardship on lots of people,” Tyra said. “But I can tell you the traffic has been a lot lower anyway.”
“Well do you want to try it seven days and see?” Wright asked.
Tyra said he would rather close it until at least the end of the governor’s disaster declaration. County Attorney Cory Curtis agreed that was probably the best course.
“It is not a vacation for the employees. They still have to report to work every day,” Tyra said. “It will just be by phone call. Or if it can be done online, that’s what they’ll recommend. If it is something that has to happen then they will call the office. If the need a marriage license or death certificate they will call the clerk ‘office and make an appointment. They will try to have that stuff ready so when they get here, they’ll just pass it through the door.”
“This gives you a way to screen people, cause you can’t just shut down,” he said.
“Who would be doing the screening?” commissioner Kelly Joe Neel asked.
Tyra said the sheriff’s office would be responsible for the screening, as the sheriff was responsible for courthouse security.
The commissioners then asked Sheriff price to meet with them to discuss the particulars of how the shutdown would be handled and how screening would be handled.
The county released the following notice: “Please call the office you need and they will assist you on how to proceed with your request. The basement door on the south side of the courthouse will be the only entrance point. If appointment is required, you will have to be temperature screened to be allowed access inside.”