The new normal at Town Hall

By on March 26, 2020

Dare’s municipalities adapt to a pandemic

Municipalities across Dare County have continued to provide services during the COVID-19 crisis, although the situation has required town staff and officials to significant adjustments to their operations.

While most municipal employees are still reporting to work and practicing social distancing guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control, officials in each of the six municipalities are asking the public to call or email about questions and concerns rather than visit town hall facilities.

At the same time, elected boards are currently exploring alternatives to in-person meetings—such as conference calls and virtual meetings—in order to conduct business.

The Voice reached out to officials in each of the towns in order to provide a rundown on how local municipalities have adapted during the crisis.

Manteo

The March 27 Board of Commissioners budget retreat has been postponed, according to Town Manager James Ayers. The board’s regular meeting, scheduled for April 1, will be held via telephone conference or other means. Ayers said that more information and access numbers to the meeting will be published on the town’s website prior to the meeting.  The town’s other boards and committees will be meeting via telephone or videoconferencing until further notice.

Ayers also noted that town staff has been utilizing teleworking, staggering of shifts and videoconferencing for staff meetings, although the majority of town department functions such as water and sewer, sanitation and law enforcement, require in-person work activities. “Social distancing is being practiced as appropriate,” stated Ayers.

Manteo’s public works and sewer & sanitation departments continue to deliver services and permit applications and inspection requests can be faxed to 252-475-2135, emailed to [email protected], placed in the drop box on the side of town hall next to the parking lot or mailed to P.O. Box 246, Manteo, NC 27954. Permit fees can be placed in the drop box or mailed.

Town inspections are continuing, but contractors are expected to limit their presence to one person, with social distancing to be observed throughout the inspection, Ayers said. The Manteo Police Department is continuing law enforcement services with some possible modifications. If a call is dispatched, Ayers said the Manteo Police Department will respond, although there may be situations that can be handled over the phone, such as reporting a stolen bike or getting a police report on property damage.

The public is being asked to call 252-473-2133 first to see if an issue can be handled over the phone, online or by some other means. “Access to Town Hall and the Police Department is limited to urgent matters. You will need to ring the doorbell and use the intercom prior to entry,” explained Ayers.

 

Nags Head

Nags Head is working to schedule a remote meeting of the planning board for next week that would allow for public attendance by video and/or audio, according to Nags Head Public Information Officer Roberta Thuman. The only anticipated agenda item is consideration of the updated Flood Ordinance.

The April 1 meeting of the Nags Head Board of Commissioners was rescheduled a few months ago to April 15. That meeting is expected to be held virtually if needed.

“To protect our citizens and our employees, we are asking the public to refrain from entering any Town of Nags Head offices and encouraging them to conduct business with us either online or via the phone,” Thuman said in an email.

She said that as far as town staff goes, management is working directly with employees to find accommodations when requested. “The number of employees working from home changes each day due to the flexible scheduling; however, the majority of our staff is reporting to work as normal.”

Administrative offices of the Nags Head police and fire departments are closed. For questions or needs concerning police-related matters, members of the public are asked to call the police department at 252-441-6386 or 252-449-2026. For fire and rescue-related matters, call 252-441-5909.  For emergencies, call 911 and non-emergency calls can be made to Dare Central at 252-473-3444.

Officers have been instructed to wear the appropriate personal protective equipment while on calls if warranted. Rather than taking documents such as driver’s licenses, Thuman noted that officers may instead record the information needed. If calls are non-emergency in nature, the police department may call citizens back in order to handle the situation via phone. If they do respond to a call, they may ask citizens to exit their homes or businesses to speak to the officer outside.

“Please do not be offended if our officer and staff choose not to shake your hand, this is temporary,” Thuman noted.

Online permitting had already been widely utilized in Nags Head, Thuman said, adding that staff has developed flexible steps to allow almost all types of permits and approvals to be submitted and issued through email or with the phone support. Contractors and members of the public are encouraged to call or email the Planning and Development Department for direction.

 

Kill Devil Hills

All board and committee meetings have been cancelled through the end of the month, said Kill Devil Hills Public Information Officer Rachel Tackett. The municipality is in the process of conducting research on holding virtual meetings.

As for town staff, Tackett explained that the majority of employees are reporting to work as normal and complying with CDC social distancing guidelines. “The majority of staff have individual offices and are not in close contact with other employees,” Tackett said in an email.

“Just as we are asking the public, we are asking employees to call or email their coworkers for assistance first. If staff need to meet, we are sure to limit how many people are in a meeting and we keep a minimum distance of six feet apart.”

Town offices are currently accessible by appointment only, Tackett noted. The public is asked to call, email or visit the town’s website for assistance or to schedule an in-person appointment. Contact information and updates to daily operations can be found at www.kdhnc.com. The planning and inspections department is conducting as much business as possible by phone and email, including consultations and site plan reviews.

Permit applications can be submitted electronically to [email protected] or dropped in the drop box located at town hall on the second-floor back door. Town staff is asking those submitting permits to call 252-449-5318 prior to submitting forms to ensure the application package is complete. Planning staff will call to schedule an appointment for pick up and payment. Building inspections will be conducted by appointment.

To maintain CDC recommendations for social distancing, Tackett noted that a municipal inspector may ask before entering an occupied house if anyone in the house is ill and request that occupants leave the area that needs inspections. For new construction, inspectors will request that workers not be in the structure at the time of inspections.

The planning and inspections department is limiting the number of HVAC change-out inspections to include unoccupied homes only, with inspections of occupied homes being deferred to a later date. Tackett added that licensed mechanical and electrical contractors will still be required to sign off immediately upon completion of the HVAC installation. The building inspector will keep a log of the site address, contractor name/phone number, and the date the inspection was requested.

As for police department protocol, an officer may call a citizen back if a request for service is not an emergency and can be handled over the phone. Officers may respond to calls for service wearing personal protective equipment, including gloves and masks. “This is strictly for their protection and in no way is intended to be offensive,” Tackett noted. In addition, officers may ask you to exit your home or business to speak with them outside.

 

Kitty Hawk

According to Town Manager Andy Stewart, there have been no cancellations of municipal board meetings to date, however the situation is being monitored daily. All town employees are currently reporting to work, with social distancing being encouraged and information being provided to employees.

Stewart said that while town hall is open, face-to-face contact is limited and visitors are encouraged to call or visit the website before coming to town hall. The building department is also open, but Stewart noted that the town’s building inspector may require distancing of occupants during inspections.

The town’s police and fire department’s remain open and personal protection equipment such as masks and rubber gloves are being required where appropriate. Stewart added that the fire department is currently in the process of securing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for employees in those departments.

 

Southern Shores

According to information provided on the town website, town hall is currently closed to the public and all town hall business is being conducted via phone, email, fax, or other virtual means. Documents requiring delivery to town staff can be placed in the drop box located outside of the main entrance to Town Hall, nearest to the flagpole.

Interim Town Manager Wes Haskett said in an email to the Voice that all employees are still reporting to work and practicing current social distancing guidelines.

The next Town Council meeting is scheduled for April 7, however that is subject to change. Meetings of groups not affiliated with government operations are not permitted in town buildings until further notice.

Building inspections are still being conducted, but in-person meetings with the building inspector on-site are limited. Inspection requests should be called in to the Planning & Code Enforcement Department by calling 252-261-2394 ext. 3 or email Permit Officer Dabni Shelton at [email protected]

Permit applications can be submitted online by utilizing the link to Citizenserve on the Town website: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/online-permit-submittals/. Trash and recycling are being collected as scheduled, however the semi-annual bulk waste collection scheduled for April 3 has been postponed.

The police department building is currently closed to the public and all non-emergent business is being conducted via phone, email, fax, or other virtual means. If members of the public need to contact the Police Department, they are asked to call 252-261-3331 or email Jennifer Couture at [email protected]. In the event of an emergency, call 911. For all non-emergencies, call the non-emergency dispatch number at 252-473-3444.

Police officers will not be responding to general non-emergency EMS calls such as patient assists, however they are responding to all emergency EMS calls. Depending on the type of call, officers may ask that you exit your home to speak to them outside.

 

Duck

Town Council is currently reviewing possible options for its April 1 meeting, according to Public Information Officer Christian Legner. The public will be able to watch via live streaming or listen to the audio and details for participating will be shared as that date approaches. “The planning board and other boards will be deferred to a later date provided that doing so will not unnecessarily delay required actions,” noted Legner.

As for town employees, Legner said some are working remotely while others are in the office. She added that CDC guidelines for cleaning and social distancing are being followed. The Town Hall administrative office is open; however community members are being urged to call or email town staff with questions and concerns before visiting the office. “Many of our services can be handled remotely,” she explained.

Trash and recycling collection services are operating normally and people wanting to apply for permits or submit site plans can contact town hall at 252-255-1234.

The public safety building is closed to non-essential and non-emergency visitors. Non-emergency issues will be handled via phone as much as possible and officers may be using personal protective equipment such as gloves and masks.

 


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