County commissioners and department heads have closed the Allen County Courthouse, and declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
The state of emergency will last 60 days; the courthouse closure will last one week before the situation is re-evaluated, commissioners said at a special meeting Thursday.
Meanwhile, one of the area’s largest manufacturing companies will close its plant effective tonight.
Humboldt’s B&W Trailer Hitches announced plans to close the plant this evening.
The plant has 400 employees, who will continue to be paid, according to the announcement.
There are no positive cases of COVID-19 in Allen County or at the B&W plant.
“We heed the call to do our part to prevent the spread of this virus,” the announcement read.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, federal-level emergency and a state-level emergency have already been declared.
“Nothing new has happened, but what this does is enable some of the small businesses to perhaps recoup some of their losses and help the county to get reimbursement,” explained Commissioner Bill King.
The intent of the emergency declaration is not to cause panic, King said, but to help the county and residents within it to recover financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At an earlier meeting, commissioner Jerry Daniels likened the situation to a blizzard, where people were snowed in and could not attend work.
“Putting this in place protects everyone moving forward,” said 911 director Angie Murphy.
By Thursday afternoon, 29 counties in Kansas had moved to enact similar measures, she added.
As of Thursday evening, the Allen County courthouse will be closed to the public, though department heads may be available for appointments in case of emergencies.
Commissioners will reassess the situation weekly.
Residents should be aware that calls to certain offices may be redirected until an available county employee can be reached.
Departments include, for example, those linked to the appraiser, public works, treasurer and register of deeds.
“[What] I’ve envisioned is to close the courthouse to the public, [and] leave to department heads the determination of what work needs to continue in the office … [as well as] who is there at any one time,” said Commissioner Bruce Symes.
Though the situation remains fluid, this is essentially the agreement reached by commissioners and department heads.
Despite the courthouse closure, next Tuesday’s commission meeting at 8:30 a.m. will remain open to the public. Those on the agenda may be able conduct business over the phone or remotely.
County employees will continue to receive salary and wages as per usual, and are therefore considered “available.”
In the words of county counselor Bob Johnson, despite the current situation, “the county’s still open for business.”
The DMV office will be closed entirely for the next two weeks.
The Allen County Landfill will remain open.
Road crews will continue to work, but with limited staff.
“We’re still going to be open 24-7,” said Sheriff Bryan Murphy, in reference to law enforcement.
Meals on Wheels will stop for at least two weeks. The final day for delivery will be Friday, March 20.
The Elderly Services van will be shut down as well.
REGARDING courts in Allen County and the 31st Judicial District (Allen, Neosho, Wilson, Woodson):
The Kansas Supreme Court today issued Administrative Order 2020-PR-016 directing all district and appellate courts to cease all but emergency operations until further order.
The only exception is jury trials already underway. They may proceed to conclusion, but no other criminal or civil jury trials will be scheduled until further ordered.
The Kansas Supreme Court anticipates the order to remain in effect for at least two weeks, at which time it will be re-evaluated.