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June 24, 2020

County office buildings reopened this week

Photos/Don Del Rosso
Brenda Johnson, a deputy commissioner of revenue, works behind a newly-installed protective screen
County Treasurer Tanya Wilcox’s front-line employees also have new protective screens at their work stations.
I am very optimistic that we’ve taken the appropriate protections to protect both the public and our employees. Like anything else, there will be a learning curve, where the citizens will learn how to do business with us and we with the citizens, in this phase.
— County Administrator Paul S. McCulla
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
After a three-month shutdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, Fauquier County government office buildings reopened this week.

For now, county government departments housed in the Warren Green, the county courthouse and the Alice Jane Childs Building — all in Warrenton — won’t provide walk-in service but in some instances will allow limited in-person staff contact with citizens. Their plans to do that took effect Wednesday.

Provided it has adequate staffing, the county library “no sooner than June 30” plans to open the Bealeton, Marshall and Warrenton branches for computer use only by appointment. The branches will continue to provide curbside service.

Fauquier’s constitutional offices that occupy the Warren Green Building and the adjacent courthouse — the commissioner of revenue, treasurer and commonwealth’s attorney — began reopening Monday.

Requiring masks and social distancing, the commissioner of revenue and treasurer will offer full walk-in service. Also with the same requirements, the commonwealth’s attorney staff will meet with people by appointment only.

The Fauquier circuit court clerk’s office, which also occupies the courthouse’s lower level, never shut because of the pandemic. The Ashby Street access to the courthouse has remained open throughout the crisis but only to those conducting business with the clerk’s office.

Preparing to reopen office buildings, Fauquier has spent tens of thousands of dollars on protective equipment, including “sneeze” guards at public service counters, gloves and sanitizers, to help ensure the safety of employees and visitors.

County Administrator Paul S. McCulla last week issued a phased “Return to Action Plan” that details the circumstances under which county government eventually would “fully” reopen.

> Document at bottom of story

But because of the pandemic’s “evolving nature,” tying the multi-phased plan to “an exact timeline for resuming ‘normal’ operations is not practical, as we need to be agile as we move through the pandemic,” the 11-page document states. “The county will continue to monitor applicable federal, state and local guidance and determine next steps for reopening offices.”

The plan also addresses various safety-related “workplace protocols,” including mask requirements, social distancing and other practices.

An appendix to “The Return to Work Action Plan,” which Mr. McCulla’s office last week emailed to all government employees and the board of supervisors, summarizes re-opening plans for county departments and constitutional offices.

“The limited opening” stage that took effect Wednesday “is intended to convey that we’re slightly open but not the whole way,” Mr. McCulla explained. “We’ll go from that at some point to an open stage, where we’ll allow more access.”

Eventually, county government will “get to the wide-open stage, which is doing business like we use to,” he added.

But Mr. McCulla stressed that until “we have some type of effective treatment and most likely some type of a vaccine process where we have reasonable assurances that our people are protected, we’re still going to be pushing telecommuting, we’re still going to be pushing doing most of our business with the general public through virtual means.”

The county administrator said he knows that some employees remain concerned about potential workplace exposure to the virus.

He has told them that county government has and will continue to do as much as possible to ensure their safety, Mr. McCulla said.

Employees also must do their part to remain “safe,” the county administrator said he has told them.

That means strict adherence to basic practices such as repeated hand-washing and social distancing, he said.

“But there’s no guarantees to anything,” Mr. McCulla said. “What I also tell (employees) is when I talk to the health department, they will tell you that the vast, vast majority of transmissions are inter-family. Somebody’s got to bring it into the family.”

He expects this week’s reopening of county office buildings to unfold “relatively smoothly.”

“I am very optimistic that we’ve taken the appropriate protections to protect both the public and our employees,” Mr. McCulla said Monday. “Like anything else, there will be a learning curve, where the citizens will learn how to do business with us and we with the citizens, in this stage.”

Warrenton opened Town Hall for limited services Monday, June 15.

Remington opened its municipal building, which includes a “DMV Select Office,” on a limited basis May 18.

Virginia will enter Phase 3 of reopening Wednesday, July 1, Gov. Ralph Northam announced this week. That will permit social gatherings of up to 250, full restaurant and retail operations — with guidelines for masks and social distancing still in place.

Contact Don Del Rosso at Don@FauquierNow.com or 540-270-0300.

Fauquier County “Return to ... by Fauquier Now on Scribd


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