Gage County is joining the growing list of Nebraska counties closing its courthouse to the public.
The Board of Supervisors added an emergency item to the agenda of its regular Wednesday meeting to discuss closing the courthouse after the first “presumably positive” case of COVID-19 was identified in Gage County earlier this week.
Board chairman Erich Tiemann said the doors would be locked to the public effective as soon as staff could put signs on the doors, though walk-in traffic would be allowed with an appointment.
“All business will still be conducted as usual, although with limited interaction with the public face to face,” he said. “The drop box is available, the internet is available, phone is available and we still have appointments ahead of time, if you need face to face contact to do your business.”
Special Services Sgt. Bryan Davidson, who heads courthouse security, said a station will be set up at the east entrance on the first floor of the building for those who need access to the building.
“For example, the treasurer’s office has dealers that bring in titles that need to be done,” he said. “They can call and prearrange to meet somebody at the entrance. (A courthouse employee) can take the titles back up there, call and tell them when they’re ready and meet them back down there so we’re limiting access to that one small area instead of having people come around.”
Both county and district courtrooms will remain open and continue to hold hearings. Outside the courthouse, the county road department and sheriff’s office have also closed to the public.
It was announced last week that that the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles will no longer be conducting driving tests statewide until further notice.
Other counties in the area have decided to close their courthouses, including Saline County, where the courthouse was closed as of last Wednesday for everything except court proceedings.
It was also announced that the Jefferson County Courthouse was closing to the public until further notice, also with an exception for those scheduled for court hearings.
“We were one of the last courthouses in our immediate area that was completely open to the public,” Tiemann said. “We switched last week to encouraging people to do things by phone and internet. This is just an additional step. Everyone is still at work, we can still process things, it just may be a little more inconvenient. Hopefully it protects staff and the public coming into the building. They’re strange times we’re in right now.”
The closure has no scheduled end date, and the County Board plans to reevaluate the closure as it continues to hold regular meetings.
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