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Customer Service window reopens; in-person payments permitted

GATESVILLE- The Gates County Customer Service Department has resumed taking in person payments for water/sewer service, effective Oct. 1.

That pay window has been closed for the past several months as part of a decision for county staff to refrain from meeting face-to-face with customers/clients/citizens due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Other local government offices were closed to the public as well.

The re-opening plan for Customer Service does include some restrictions. They include having only one person (or family) allowed in the hallway to the payment window due to the small space and inability to social distance there. A line will be formed down the main hallway for those wishing to make payments in person.

The counter will be sanitized every half hour. Citizens will be encouraged to use hand sanitizer before passing payments to the Customer Service representative.

Citizens will still be encouraged to make payments by phone or to use the drop-box. The drop-box, located in the parking lot in front of the courthouse, will be checked every two hours.

The Gates County Tax Office, which has been taking payments in person, will also continue to encourage citizens to put payments in the drop-box.

“Citizens will continue to be encouraged to call and schedule appointments with departments to discuss issues,” said County Manager Natalie Rountree. “If a citizen stops by an office without an appointment and wishes to speak with an employee, please wear masks if social distancing isn’t an option in the office. If a conference room is available for social distancing, that room may be used.”

The issue of re-opening the county’s local government offices was addressed during the Sept. 16 scheduled meeting of the Gates County Board of Commissioners.

“I think we need a plan of action. The school system is looking at a plan of action; I think it’s time for county government to look at a plan of action,” stated Commissioner Jonathan Jones about a possible re-opening plan.

Jones added that he had been contacted by several citizens who inquired about a possible plan to re-open county offices.

“We’ve had a drop-box since March; that [payment method] has not changed,” Rountree said at the Sept. 16 meeting.

“We will have a department head meeting to talk about how comfortable people are [about reopening the offices],” she continued. “We have some office space that’s too small to promote social distancing. That’s been the plan, that’s how we’ve been operating since March; if you can’t meet comfortably, then they need to call.”

Commission Chair Ray Freeman noted that just a few months ago there were about 25 cases of COVID-19.

“Now that number is over 100,” Freeman stated. “It’s going up every day.”

The county’s department heads met Sept. 17 where a re-opening plan for county buildings was discussed. That discussion led to the Oct. 1 re-opening of the Customer Service payment window.

 

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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