Municipalities close offices to public

Municipalities close offices to public

Matthew Saari

As COVID-19 cases increase and spread throughout the state, most municipalities are shuttering their doors to the public for the next two weeks.

Without exception, villages and towns throughout Washington County have reduced staffing and closed offices during the past week, at least until March 31. In every case, however, personnel remain present in a bid to keep local government operating.

In Granville, village officials announced Wednesday the village hall, Slate Valley Museum and Pember Library and Museum would be closed to the public “until further notice.”

“Pretty much an across-the-board lockdown,” said village clerk Rick Roberts.

Being that the village is still in the midst of collecting water and sewer rents, Roberts said it’s preferable for residents to pay through the mail. The village’s mailing address is PO Box 208, Granville.

Although the state provided a date of March 31 for reopening municipal offices, given how rapidly changing this situation has proven, Mayor Paul Labas suspects this is also subject to change.

“I really have a feeling that’s going to change,” he said.

It’s the same situation across the canal, said Whitehall village clerk Stephanie LaChapelle, with her office doors recently being locked to the public.

“We’re not opening up to the public,” she said.

The Whitehall Municipal Center maintains a drop box next to the door, LaChapelle said, where residents can deposit payments after which receipts will be mailed to the homes.

Although the towns don’t have the infrastructure the villages do, the timing of the quarantine falls during town tax collection season.

“I’m following suit with what the county’s doing,” said Dresden supervisor Paul Ferguson.

Each of the six towns in this publication’s coverage area – Granville, Whitehall, Hampton, Dresden, Hartford and Hebron – indicated their offices are also closed to the public but town clerks are maintaining their office hours to answer phones and process tax receipts.

Officials in each town indicated residents seeking to pay their taxes should do so by mail or, as is the case in Whitehall and Hebron, drop the payments in drop boxes at the respective town halls.