Within hours of declaring a countywide state of emergency Thursday, Jefferson County’s commissioners approved a resolution restricting public access to county offices and buildings to minimize the risk of exposure to and the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
According to the terms of the resolution, the county “will continue to conduct necessary business” but “strongly encourages” those needing to do business with a county department to call or email that department.
“Individual offices and departments will make every effort to accommodate requests for assistance,” the resolution states.
County email addresses and phone numbers can be found online at jeffersoncounty-mt.gov.
The resolution was decided upon despite a lack of public notice and under a sense of urgency surrounding the COVID-19 virus threat.
“We’ve done other things on an emergency basis before,” said Commissioner Bob Mullen.
Stating a preference for giving the proper 48 hours’ notice for a pending Commission decision, County Attorney Steve Haddon acknowledged that “we’re in uncharted waters here, folks.”
Having reviewed Montana statutes that grant the Commision certain “jurisdiction and power,” Haddon said “we’re not alone in doing this,” citing similar actions recently undertaken by other counties in the state.
“We are looking to minimize a health risk and try to slow this horse down,” Haddon said. “I am comfortable with the Commission proceeding forward with this.”
“I think we’re doing the right thing here,” said Doug Dodge, the county’s director of emergency services. “If things get worse you might need to make even more restrictions.”
The resolution was considered at 1:30 p.m. after the Commission continued the 10 a.m. meeting during which they considered the emergency declaration, which was typically noticed.