The Liberty County Courthouse is reopening Wednesday but don’t expect that everything will be back to normal yet.
All persons entering the courthouse for now will have to submit to a health screening, which includes filling out a questionnaire about current health conditions and submitting to a temperature check. These measures are being put in place to prevent persons with COVID-19 from entering and potentially spreading the disease to courthouse employees.
The health screening area is set up under the covered walkway leading into the west side of the courthouse, the entrance that faces Liberty City Hall. Courthouse security employees are monitoring the health screening station. If a person is running a fever, they will be denied access to the courthouse.
These measures are expected to be in place until the threat of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has passed.
As docket calls are expected to resume on Wednesday, it was critical to have a policy in place, said County Attorney Matthew Poston during the regular commissioners court meeting on Tuesday.
County commissioners approved the courthouse reopening and postponed the reopening of the county annexes in Cleveland and Dayton until they have an opportunity to get input from department heads and the elected officials who operate from the annexes, such as justices of the peace and constables.
County Clerk Lee Haidusek-Chambers said her office is using pre-arranged appointments to meet with the public, a process that appears to be working well at this time. Her office is also helping people obtain forms and legal documents, such as marriage licenses, by completing some information online. This is streamlining the process and making the visits more efficient.
Concerned about the safety of his staff in handling crowd control, Liberty County Tax Assessor-Collector Ricky Brown asked commissioners to provide security at each of the annexes and the tax office in Liberty, which is now located at 3210 US 90. Brown said he would not be reopening his offices until uniformed officers were at the doors.
“I stand with that because I have experienced this in the last three weeks. You try to control the public out there. They are not very tolerant. They are not very understanding. I have almost had to come to blows with people simply telling them where to stand, and again, I am not going to put that responsibility on my staff,” he said. “They are having to come out from behind the counter to help control the crowd.”
Brown suggested that a sheriff’s deputy, deputy constable or a security officer could manage health screenings for all the offices in the two annexes, and a third officer could be position at the tax office in Liberty as it stands alone from any other county office.
The commissioners plan to revisit the topic of reopening the county annexes and other county buildings in the coming days. The health screenings also do not apply for visitors at any of the county’s trash disposal centers.