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Blair eyes reopening courthouse to public

Some offices now open by appointment

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County leaders are encouraging the public to keep using phone and computer options to access county governmental offices and services while efforts continue toward reopening the courthouse during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re in a transitional phase,” commissioners Chairman Bruce Erb said Tuesday during the weekly teleconference meeting where County Administrator /Chief Clerk Nicole Hemminger reported contacting courthouse offices for plans and concerns about reopening to the public.

Commissioners last week designated Hemminger as the county’s COVID-19 safety officer.

Since then, Hemminger followed through with contacting county offices and county-related offices. She said Tuesday that she has not yet heard from as many as nine offices.

Of those contacted, Hemminger acknowledged that some public access is being permitted by appointment. That’s the case with the sheriff’s office, which has continued to accept and process license-to-carry applications, commonly referred to as gun permits.

Starting Friday, Register /Recorder Anita Terchanik is opening her office to the public, by appointment, for document searches.

In an announcement issued Tuesday, Terchanik said that up to nine people will be granted access to the room for searching property documents filed prior to 1942. Post-1942 records can be accessed through the office’s online research option.

Terchanik already has a notice on her office door, indicating that facial masks are required and social distancing must be observed. Anyone refusing to comply will be asked to leave,

her written announcement stated.

Erb said Tuesday that during this transitional time, he would encourage people to continue calling and using online resources available for accessing county offices and their personnel.

“We will slowly make the transition … but not in a way that endangers employees or the public,” he said.

“We want people to feel safe,” Commissioner Amy Webster said.

Commissioners also offered no commitment Tuesday as to when they will resume governmental business meetings at the courthouse. After the courthouse was ordered closed, commissioners started conducting their weekly meetings via a computer application with video and audio access. Public access is available by telephone.

Hemminger said it might be advisable for those kind of meetings to continue while the county is in the yellow phase of the state’s coronavirus-related restrictions. In the previous red phase, gatherings were to be limited to no more than 10. In the yellow phase, the amount increases to 25, as long as social distancing of 6 feet can be achieved.

Commissioner Laura Burke suggested a review of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines .

“I don’t know how soon it will be before we can meet again in person,” she said.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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