Gillespie County Commissioners gathered six feet apart on Tuesday for a special meeting to discuss concerns regarding COVID-19.
Commissioners announced that beginning at 8 a.m. Thursday, March 26, the following Gillespie County offices and facilities will be closed to the public for a two-week period:
• Gillespie County Courthouse;
• Annex 1;
• Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office;
• Pioneer Memorial Library.
“We have decided to limit access to certain county facilities and some offices have changed how they are doing their regular business,” Gillespie County Judge Mark Stroeher said.
According to county officials, offices and services will still be available via phone, by email and online.
Gillespie County Commissioners will meet in future weeks to consider extending these measures.
For more information on specific office procedures and hours, visit www.gillespiecounty.org.
Pioneer Memorial Library
Prior to decisions being approved by the court, commissioners heard from representatives from each county department, taking into consideration how the department could work with limited services.
Pioneer Memorial Librarian Brian MacWithey expressed the need to possibly close the library.
“We currently have four access points to the facility and we have no way of disinfecting books once they have been returned to us,” MacWithey said.
MacWithey said his staff has tried distancing themselves from persons when checking out books but people end up searching for their library card, licking fingers or touching their faces.
He also said schools have been closed; more kids have been inside the library to keep busy.
“We obviously enjoy having people come in and read and check out books but we feel that it’s becoming too much and we aren’t able to keep up with disinfecting and cleaning,” he said.
He expressed that if the library were to close, e-books and audio books are still available to the public online. WiFi service is also available to the public by parking in the lot behind the library and connecting to the network.
The Gillespie County Clerk’s office has changed access to its office following COVID-19 concerns.
“This is an effort to keep everyone safe and limit in-person contact,” Gillespie County Clerk Mary Lynn Rusche said. “We will continue to process court filings and real estate recordings, as well as mail and email requests.”
Persons are asked to call the office and customers will be met at the door for instructions on how to proceed.
For certified copies of birth, death or marriage certificates, call 830-997-6515 for assistance in obtaining copies.
Public records can still be searched online at www.gillespiecounty.org.
This includes land records, doing-business-as filings and more. Land records can be purchased online with a credit card.
Criminal fine payments can be made online with a credit card or through mail to Gillespie County Clerk, 101 West Main Street, Unit No. 13, Fredericksburg, TX 78624.
Drop off recordings or marriage license questions can be directed at 997-6515.
“Thank you for your understanding and cooperation as we navigate this time together,” Rusche said.
For questions or concerns, email Rusche at email@example.com.
Gillespie County Court at Law Judge Chris Nevins announced early last week that its docket has been suspended through April 1.
Beginning April 14, the court will be looking to stream criminal and civil court matters.
“Using Zoom and YouTube, we can gather all the necessary people together for court sessions,” Nevins said. “We would still provide notice of court proceedings but this would allow us to limit the number of people in one room and not get behind on our case load.”
Nevins said he expects court systems to use this method for the remainder of the year.
Tax assessor collector
Gillespie County Tax Assessor Collector Vicki Schmidt said her office began limiting access last week.
“We starting using one entrance and one exit and have already seen considerably less people,” Schmidt said.
Title changes for cars and boats has to be done in person but the State of Texas has said that information brought in past March 16 will have waived penalty fees. This will occur for 60 days after the restrictions are over, Schmidt said.
Registration regulations have also been changed.
Law enforcement officials are asked to not issue tickets for expired car registration in an effort to limit the people in Schmidt’s office.
Services are still available online, via email or by calling 997-6519.
Stroeher expressed concerns about keeping the Gillespie County Airport open through the pandemic as many visitors from California and the East Coast are coming to Fredericksburg.
“I don’t think we need people coming here if we can prevent it,” Stroeher said.
According to FAA regulations, it is not possible to close the airport.
Commissioners received a report from City of Fredericksburg Fire Chief Lynn Bizzell who shared information about the virus and efforts that the city has made to reduce gatherings and cut off contact from the public.
More information on Bizzell’s presentation can be found elsewhere in this newspaper.
With restrictions set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Gillespie County is considering options for public viewing of meetings to limit the number of people in meetings.
The City of Fredericksburg has begun streaming meetings through a service that uses YouTube. The county would have to pay $500 per session to stream meetings if it were to use the same service.
Commissioners took no action on the matter as it weighs potential options.