Local government operations continue, whether at home or in the office

By Brandon Martin

Over the course of the last few months, government offices all across the country have been forced to close their doors due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Henry County Administrator Tim Hall said that doesn’t mean that the countys operations cease.

Two weeks have passed since his staff began implementing procedures to continue their work while adhering to guidelines surrounding COVID-19, he said.

“We encouraged department heads to divide their staff into teams and decide what work could be done from home,” he said, adding that the teams would alternate time in the office as well.

Martinsville City Manager Leon Towarnicki said that he had “one or two” people working from home as well.

“Specifically, we are talking about jobs in community development,” he said. “A lot of that job relies on email and correspondence which won’t really be affected by working from home.”

Hall and Towarnicki both said that employees are still working the same amount of hours due to their essential work.

“We are doing everything as if everyone were here sitting in the office,” Hall said. “It’s still a work day. In the very beginning, it was made explicit that if you are working from home, then that’s exactly what you should be doing–working. It’s not a vacation day. So far, all of our folks have complied because they are good at what they do.”

Towarnicki said that city staff is also adjusting to changes in how they normally do business.

In areas of the Municipal Building that are common meeting places, such as the lunch room, he said the city has sectioned off the rooms to promote social distancing. He said because of the number of entrances and exits, people can go to separate areas and still feel comfortable.

The maintenance crews also are changing their standard practices too, according to Towarnicki.

“They used to come into the office every morning and discuss what all needed to be done in the day, but now a lot of them will just go directly to their truck and get instructions through email or text,” the city manager said.

The payment windows at the Henry County Treasurer’s Office, Commissioner of Revenue’s Office, and the Public Service Authority are closed for walk-up service. Residents can pay online, send payments through the mail, or use the drop box located in front of the Administration building. Online payments can be made at henrycountyva.gov/paymybill.

Similarly, the city has payment options through dropbox, drive-thru and online payments as well. Utility service connections can be made by calling (276) 403-5146 or emailing utilitybilling@ci.martinsville.va.us.

PSA customers seeking to sign up for, or disconnect a service are encouraged to call the customer service office at (276) 634-2505 and speak to a representative.

All visitation to either the Henry County or Martinsville City jails was suspended until further notice.

Non-emergency inspections and smoke alarm installations have been suspended by the respective fire marshals offices.

Martinsville has also cancelled all non-essential events until April 26. This includes budget work sessions, Parks and Recreation events and rentals, neighborhood watch meetings and issuing special event permits.

All other essential city functions such as police, fire and emergency medical services, trash collection and utility services, continue to operate but offices are closed to the public. The City Municipal Building also is closed to the public, with visitors only admitted for essential and emergency court actions.

Visitors to city and county court facilities are required to submit to a body temperature scan and health screening questionnaire. The clerk’s office will only assist with in-person matters that cannot be handled  by visiting http://www.henrycountyva.gov/clerk-of-circuit-court.

Those who are coughing or experiencing a fever should not visit a government facility and if physical visitation is necessary, visitors are encouraged to comply with social distancing and sanitation guidelines.

For more information on COVID-19 in Martinsville-Henry County, visit their joint webpage at http://www.henrycountyva.gov/covid19.

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