Local government offices not rushing to full reopening

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WOODFORD COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ) – While local governments, like other offices, can begin reopening next week at 50 percent capacity and staffing, not all local governments are rushing in.

And some say the lessons they’ve learned from two months of ‘virtual” operations make business continue to work without in-person contacts. And the continued positive tests of area residents are an indication that opening requires thought and safety measures.

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“We’re not going to open City Hall back up this month,” Midway Mayor Grayson Vandergrift said during a community update this week. “Our service hasn’t gone down during the shutdown.

“I worry people will let their guard down and we’ll see a spike,” he continued, noting Midway has been lucky so far in that of the 19 coronavirus cases in Woodford County, none have been in Midway.

“We’ll evaluate in June,” he added, noting that if the city’s two clerks were to come down with the coronavirus it would “cripple” city government.

In addition, the City Council likely will approve Monday night online bill payments, which will improve service while reducing the need for in-person contact, the mayor aded.

Citing two new cases this week, including one where the person showed no symptoms, Judge Executive James Kay and Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott agreed on the wait-and-see approach.

“My plan is to change nothing right now,” Traugott said, noting technology improvements have helped upgrade service while keeping city workers and the public safe.

The county will open some courthouse services June 1, primarily because courts will begin limited activities and the county will begin preparing for the June 23 primary elections.

But increased use of video applications have reduced the need for in-person meetings, and improved access to county leaders. “We’ve come a long way in our ability to do services remotely,” Kay said, indicating that would continue even as county government eases back into opening.

The approach mirrors what the city and county leaders say they are seeing in the community as businesses and industries reopen. Most businesses, large and small, have taken extensive steps to open safely and cautiously with the biggest concerns at small businesses where space is limited.

“I think at the end of the day, business and industry do care about their employees and their customers,” Kay said. “We do have anecdotal evidence of some businesses who don’t abide by the rules, one in particular, but in every sector the virus is dictating the rules.”

The two new cases early this week marked a “slight uptick,” Kay said, which “was to be expected” as more people started getting out and the county had more access to testing.

As part of encouraging the reopening, Midway is sending residents $50 in $5 and $10 denomination vouchers in their utility bills at the end of May. The vouchers are to be spent at Midway businesses in June.

“It’s a way to invest our surplus in the community, the people and the businesses,” Vandergrift said, crediting a City Council member with spearheading the idea.