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Courthouse to reopen on limited basis Monday
Opening of each county office up to department head
courthouse closed pic
The sign on the Barton County Courthouse west door says it is closed due to COVID-19. The County Commission Friday morning voted to reopen the courthouse on a limited basis starting Monday. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

Following Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s Thursday easing of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the Barton County Commission in a special Friday morning meeting passed a resolution reopening the courthouse starting Monday, albeit on a limited basis. The opening of the various county offices, inside the courthouse and elsewhere, is up to the individual department heads.

The action Friday rescinded a resolution adopted March 20 which closed all county offices to the public.

“The plan would be that we would open the west doors to the courthouse,” County Administrator Phil Hathcock said, noting the need for better public parking. The east doors, which had been locked but used as public drop-off access, will remain locked.

“We would screen visitors as they came into the courthouse for their travel history, and check their temperature for a fever and symptoms,” he said. Anyone symptomatic would not be allowed to enter.

Hathcock said two Barton County Sheriff’s Office deputies would man the west door. It would tax the BCSO to monitor both the west and east sides, which is why the east door will not be open.

The county drive-through annex building at Broadway and Morton remains open and in use by the Treasurer’s Office. That lease runs six months. 

Weighing into the decision to reopen the courthouse were the needs of the 20th Judicial District, Hathcock said. “We’ve been in constant contact with (Chief District Judge Mike Keeley). He was very gracious and said he will work with us however we opened the courthouse.”

But, Keeley does have things planned for next week. “And in order to get out to the subpoenas and get attorneys ready for court, they need to have an idea of when the courthouse might be open,” he said.

“Well, I think it’s important for us to keep the courthouse as open as possible,” said Commissioner Jennifer Schartz. “As long as we can keep our employees safe.”

“Before we closed the courthouse, we had put a lot of measures in place,” Hathcock said. Individual offices took steps to protect the employees by maintaining social distancing and restricting access to the individual offices, and these will continue.

In addition, the county is pricing plastic shields to install in the offices to protect customers and staff.  

And, Hathcock said, it will be stressed that all precautionary steps under Gov. Kelly’s order and from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment will be followed.

Barton County Commission meeting at a glance

Here is a quick look at what the Barton County Commission did Monday morning:

• Passed a resolution concerning access to Barton County buildings during a public health emergency and rescinding the resolution adopted March 20.

• Heard an update from Interim County Health Director Karen Winkelman on the county efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said she plans to rescind her order closing bars, restaurants and other venues.

• Announced the next commission meeting will take place at 9 a.m. Monday, May 11.