Commissioners discuss precautions with dept. heads

By Dean Wright -

GALLIPOLIS — During the Gallia Commissioners Thursday meeting in the Gallia Courthouse, department heads gathered with the commissioners to discuss concerns with recent measures enacted to limit foot traffic within the courthouse and county buildings.

“With the virus situation going around, reading the memo that was sent out, emailed, there’s a lot of questions and confusion about public access to this building, whether you can pick and choose. I’m just wondering where we’re at today,” said County Auditor Larry Betz. “Because next week there will be a flood of people coming into this building to pay their taxes.”

Real estate tax payments are due March 27 and can be postmarked to the courthouse no later than March 27 or they can be paid using any local bank drive-thru window.

“We did establish a policy, yesterday,” said Commissioner Harold Montgomery. “It is for the protection of not only the employees but of the general public coming in and congregating and getting exposure. We’ve set up a system and a lot of the offices are adhering to it. It states the building is not closed. If you can transact your business outside the building, you’re asked to do so. Pay your property taxes through the drive-thru at the bank or mail them in. If you need to see the office holder, you need to make a call and talk to the office holder and schedule an appointment, so to speak, with that office holder. That officer holder then needs to make a list and notify the front door security.”

Montgomery referenced a public notice that was published in the Gallipolis Daily Tribune Thursday discussing recent actions taken to limit foot traffic in the courthouse.

“I don’t know how else we conduct business,” said Montgomery. “It’s either we do or we don’t. We checked with several other counties and this is the same method that all the counties we’ve checked with seem to be adhering to.”

Montgomery said the commissioners were encouraging the public to utilize telephone, email and payment centers at banks for property taxes.

County Clerk of Courts Noreen Saunders asked if commissioners might consider utilizing a window facing an alley in the courthouse parking lot to conduct business.

County officials discussed the possibility of placing tax collecting officials at the door of the courthouse to intercept paying residents.

“Obviously, we’re in uncharted territory here. There is no perfect solution,” said Gallia Commissioner David Smith. “Unfortunately, this coincides with tax collection. So yes, it’s going to be a problem next week, but we’re not alone in that. All across society right now, we’re having issues. You’re just going to have to make the best you can. It takes some creativity. You may have to post some people in different places to help people. But this is a public building not just for the courts… It’s almost impossible to close this building down because government must continue and it’s going to be a challenge… It is for everyone’s best interests and I just refer you to what’s going on in Italy right now. That’s what’s trying to be prevented, folks… This is life and death, especially if you’re over 60. It’s not just you. It’s you. It’s your family and everybody you come into contact with.”

Dean Wright is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing and can be reached at 740-446-2342.

By Dean Wright