Montgomery County and its two towns have decided to close their government facilities to the public beginning on Friday, according to an announcement from the localities.
The closures, prompted by the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, will be revisited during the week of March 30.
The announcement clarifies that public safety functions, such as law enforcement and emergency services, will remain operational, but that citizens will be asked additional health screening questions by 911 operators, police and first responders.
The closures and the pandemic come amid annual financial planning seasons, which means localities’ governing bodies must still hold public meetings to meet budget approval deadlines.
Montgomery County canceled two board of supervisors meetings earlier this week — a budget work session Monday and a joint meeting with the county school board on Tuesday.
The Montgomery supervisors are scheduled to meet Monday night, but with some adjustments.
Up to three supervisors will be allowed to participate in the meeting by conference call, according to a statement from the county.
The county is encouraging residents to watch a live stream of the meeting and to email public comments to the board clerk in advance, said county spokeswoman Jennifer Harris. The public comments won’t be read aloud but will be added to the minutes that can be viewed after the meeting, she said.
The public can still attend Monday’s supervisors meeting in person, but county staff will set up seating in the lobby just outside the boardroom so the event can be viewed on television monitors, Harris said. A microphone will be available in the lobby for public comment, she said.
“We have to be respectful of what our state and federal governments have told us about gatherings of 10 or more people,” Harris said.
Blacksburg plans to stream its upcoming Tuesday night meeting, which includes no agenda items requiring public hearings.
“We won’t be acting on land use applications,” Blacksburg Town Attorney Larry Spencer wrote in an email. “We’ll do the best we can on the budget in April and will try to get public comment in advance of council action.”
Christiansburg will reopen its town hall at 100 E. Main St. to the public during times of advertised town council meetings. Town council is slated to meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
“However, council chambers will be set up to allow for social distancing, and we encourage members of the public to watch the meeting virtually, rather than attending in person,” Christiansburg spokeswoman Melissa Demmitt wrote in an email. “The town will live stream any public meetings that occur during the closure and will provide the link to the live stream prior to the meetings.”
Christiansburg is also encouraging citizens to submit public comments via email to email@example.com. Those comments will be submitted to town council.
The town of Pulaski also announced Thursday that its government facilities will close on Monday. The decision is scheduled to be reviewed the week of April 6, according to a town news release.