At the suggestion of Sussex County Councilman John Rieley, County Administrator Todd Lawson and his staff will gather details about how other counties are conducting business during coronavirus restrictions and report back to the council.
But Lawson’s recommendation, made during the Tuesday, June 2, council meeting, was to keep the Administrative Office Building, and other Sussex County facilities, closed “for the foreseeable future.”
“I base my recommendation on a few points. First, the County’ s operations remain productive even under our current modifications. Second, we have made adjustments to our operations that have improved our productivity and, third, remaining closed is the safest approach to continually minimizing the risk to County staff,” Lawson said.
“With the council’s input, we should continue to monitor the situation and weigh our options to make an informed decision as to how and when we open facilities to the public,” he said.
Marriage licenses can once again be obtained in person, by appointment, but Lawson spoke against starting to have public meetings in the Council Chambers again, instead of by conference call, as has been the case for the past several weeks.
As of June 1, public meetings have been permitted in Delaware, but with no more than 30 percent of occupancy, with at least 6 feet between each person and with everyone wearing a mask.
Lawson said about 30 people would fit in the council chamber under those restrictions.
Councilman I.G. Burton asked if the lobby could be used.
“Thirty people is a fair number of people. If the lobby could handle some, then when those 30 funnel out the door, the next wave comes in. It just may be a way to facilitate more than 30 if we utilize all the space,” Burton said.
Lawson said the lobby does have broadcast capability but allowing 30 in at a time would be “a gatekeeping exercise and somewhat cumbersome.”
If there are several consecutive public hearings with 30 people attending each, the next group of 30 would also need a place to wait, he said.
Burton suggested devising an appointment system, but County Council President Michael Vincent objected.
“Someone would say, ‘You took away my right because I couldn’t say what I wanted to say. I didn’t have time,’” Vincent said.
“This isn’t going to be the old normal, and to think this [virus] is going to pass and we are going to go back to the same old-same old is a fool’s run,” Burton said.
“We better start thinking about how we are going to do this. Everybody has to adapt to a new way of doing business,” he said.
Rieley suggested meeting in larger rooms, possibly in an auditorium at Delaware Technical Community College. Lawson said he and County staff will return with possible options at the next council meeting.
Lawson also told the council on Tuesday that Delaware had received $1.25 billion from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which provided direct funding to each state and local government with populations of more than 500,000.
Only the State and New Castle County received direct funding, with the State getting $927.2 million and New Castle County receiving $322.8 million.
New Castle County will provide funding to local government units in its jurisdiction, Lawson said. State officials said they intend to provide CARES funding to municipalities in both Sussex and Kent counties, he said.