News

Henry County Courthouse reopening to public

Board had closed building as of Nov. 10 due to COVID

MT. PLEASANT — The Henry County Courthouse will reopen to the public on Monday with a mask requirement for members of the public, staff and employees entering the building. Exceptions will be made for children under the age of 2.

The Board of Supervisors voted to reopen the building at its meeting on Thursday morning. The board considered extending the closure as coronavirus cases in the county continue to rise.

Board member Greg Moeller mentioned upcoming holidays and the potential of courthouse employees coming in contact with others at gatherings.

County Recorder Mindy Fitzgibbon and county Treasurer Ana Lair said pushing an opening back would continue to create a backlog of appointments for their offices.

“The longer the courthouse is kept closed, when we do open, we’re going to have more people in here,” Lair said.

The county treasurer added she feels the board should consider the reason behind why the courthouse closed on Nov. 10.

“We closed because of internal problems and as far as I know, that has improved,” she said.

Lair said all of her staff would be back in the office by the beginning of next week. Fitzgibbon said her staff had yet to deal with cases of the virus.

Fitzgibbon asked about how the mask requirement would be enforced. She said she had an encounter with a magistrate judge the previous day who said the county’s information and technology department, while installing a television in the courtroom several weeks ago, refused to put on a face mask.

“The judge told him, ‘You are required to wear a mask on the third floor.’ He said, ‘I don’t have to,’ and gave some reason … where is this going to be policed at?” she asked.

Board Chair Marc Lindeen said the situation in the county has changed in the last several weeks and hopes people are willing to take into consideration the health of others and their own.

Lair added she has required customers to wear a mask when doing business in her office space and has had no pushback.

“Everybody has been very compliant about it so now I will be taking that a step further and say, ‘When you come into our office, you will need to have a mask. If you don’t have one, we will provide one,’” she said.

Lindeen added Fitzgibbon has the “option [to say] ‘I can’t deal with you because I don’t feel … comfortable,’” to customers who refuse to comply with the mask requirement.

Fitzgibbon asked the supervisors to secure masks and a hand sanitizer machine which will be available for members of the public as they enter the courthouse.

After voting to reopen the building, Lindeen reminded the department heads the board could vote to close the building again if required “at a moment’s notice.”