Pike County supervisors met with county department heads Tuesday and approved measures to minimize the risk of spreading coronavirus at the courthouse in Magnolia.
Those include allowing some employees to work from home, and installing plexiglas in some offices.
County administrator Tami Dangerfield said state officials say courthouses should go from limited access to restricted access, meaning no one is allowed inside. Department phone numbers are posted on doors, and citizens are asked to call for curbside service.
Tax Assessor Laurie Allen said she would like to let some employees work remotely, keeping one person in each of her offices — appraisal, personal property, assessor and mapping — to answer the phone and handle curbside service.
Such measures would help keep her employees and taxpayers safer, she said.
“It’s very difficult for us to do social distancing as the CDC recommends in small offices,” she said.
Board president Sam Hall asked if working from home would make county computers more exposed to hackers. IT manager John Ivey said the county has security measures that should minimize chances for that.
Tax Collector Gwen Nunnery said she needs her employees at the courthouse because of the work load, but their work stations are too close.
“Some of them can’t be three feet apart in my office,” she said, noting there’s no room for wider spacing.
“Don’t think curbside is every now and then. I have seen where it has picked up, and I’m thankful,” she said, noting citizens can handle a lot of business through the mail and online.
Her employees also often use the same phone, but she said Ivey will install additional sets.
“It’s emotionally and mentally and physically draining to do what we’re doing right now,” Nunnery said.
She suggested plexiglas be installed between work stations.
“I need for my staff to be safe within the building,” she said. “I’m not allowing customers inside the building at all.”
Dangerfield said she will talk with building and grounds employees about installing plexiglas.
Justice Court Clerk Andranette Jordan said her department needs plexiglas at the front counter.
Jordan said she has enough space for her employees, but she has one employee with an immune system condition who needs to work from home.
Jordan asked Dowdy to find out if the Mississippi Supreme Court requires justice court to continue under the circumstances, since people come into the building when court is in session.
Jordan said she set a table outside for customers who want to file charges and handle other justice court business.
“We have had an increased number of people filing domestic abuse charges,” Jordan said. “I guess them being at home, they’re acting up.”
Chancery Clark Becky Buie said it’s not feasible for her employees to work remotely. Chancery court is still in session, but attorneys have been asked to continue cases for another month.
Dangerfield said circuit clerk and accounting department employees are spaced adequately. Road department employees can’t work from home, and building and grounds workers are needed as long as the courthouse is in use.
Supervisors said department heads can make their own decisions about whether employees work remotely. Supervisor Jake Gazzo suggested the board look re-evaluate the matter again later this month.
“We care about each and every one of our county employees, and we want to do the best thing possible,” Gazzo said.
He also suggested opening a Zoom account in case supervisors decide to meet remotely, and the board agreed.