By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
The Escambia County Commission has rescinded its emergency order that resulted in the closure of all county government facilities.
The main county courthouse, in Brewton, re-opened Monday, May 4, for normal business hours, and the Atmore Satellite Office is expected to follow suit next Monday, May 11. The one-week delay is to allow county officials to have “sneeze barriers” installed that will aid in protecting employees from COVID-19 exposure.
All other county-owned facilities will continue to operate during normal business hours.
Commission Vice-Chairman Brandon Smith said the decision was made with caution. But, he said, dwindling tax revenues from the closure since mid-March of all “non-essential” businesses are already taking a toll on county finances.
“We’ve got to get the doors open and some revenue coming in,” Smith explained. “We’ve kept in contact with Association of County Commissions of Alabama every week, and they felt like it should be OK. The main thing is, we’ve got to get back to business as usual, or a couple of months down the road we’re going to have problems bigger than a virus. There’s no bailout for the county; anything we lose, it’s going to take a while to make it up.”
Citizens are encouraged to coordinate with the various county departments and take reasonable precautions to limit in-person appearances to business that cannot be taken care of over the phone, by mail or online.
Courthouse officials, security personnel and county employees will make sure social distancing standards are met.
“At the main courthouse, the main crowd will be in the hallways,” said Smith. “They need to remain six feet apart. Most people now know that, and everyone in the community has a responsibility to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. At the satellite office, we don’t have hallways, so we have to wait until the (protective) windows are installed.”
District and Circuit courts will remain closed, except for essential actions, through May 15. Anyone with questions concerning the courts should contact the Escambia County Circuit Clerk’s office at 251-867-0225.
Contact numbers for other county offices: Probate Office, 867-0301; ECATS, 867-0584; Tax Assessor, 867-0303; Emergency Management Agency, 867-0232; Tax Collector, 867-0302; Voter Information, 867-0364; Engineering and Roads, 867-0236.
Smith said county officials are keeping their fingers crossed that things will soon return to normal.
“We’re moving with caution, but we’re moving forward,” he said.