Although county offices will continue to operate, public access to the Dent County courthouse will be limited until further notice, commissioners decided Monday. No walk-in traffic will be allowed due to COVID-19 concerns.

The county commission will reduce its meetings to one day a week with the doors open for that meeting, but other officeholders will keep their doors locked, Presiding Commissioner Darrell Skiles said.

Officeholders will continue to do business by phone or email. The outside drop box is still available for tax payments, which can also be mailed in. Absentee voting can be done curbside, County Clerk Angie Curley said.

Issuance of ATV/UTV permits can be done through email, fax or by regular mail. Call 729-4144 if you have questions. Office hours remain 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

After initially voting to keep the courthouse open, commissioners reconsidered the decision as more information came in from officeholders and voted to limit access until further notice.

Signs with officeholder phone numbers will be posted on the door. The commission will meet on Mondays from 9 a.m. to noon or the conclusion at business at hand. Those meetings will be open as required by statute.

“Our meetings are open to the public,” Skiles said. “We can’t lock the doors and tell the public they can’t come in, even in a declaration of emergency. That’s doesn’t get us off the hook of the Sunshine Law. If we meet here, the courthouse door is going to be unlocked.”

Commissioners also adopted an emergency proclamation of a state of emergency in Dent County as requested by county EMA director Brad Nash.

“This opens us up (where) if we have any kind of expenditures, we can turn those into the government for reimbursement,” Nash said. “It also helps us on the emergency management side to start implementing our emergency operations plan.”

The proclamation calls on citizens to comply with necessary emergency measures, to cooperate with public officials and the emergency management agency forces in executing operational plans, and “to obey and comply with the lawful directions of properly identified public offices.”

In a health department update, administrator Kendra Mobray said the health center is no longer taking walk-ins, with all services other than vital records by appointment only. “There’s only seven of us and when we start getting confirmed cases, it’s going to take all of us to identify contacts and make sure everyone’s remaining quarantined,” she said.

In compliance with the governor’s executive order effective at midnight Sunday, she said every food establishment in the county has been contacted and they will all go to carryout, pickup and delivery or closing their doors. The governor also banned any spontaneous social gathering of more than 10 people in one place.

Mobray said people should only leave home for essential services. “Getting gas in your car is essential, going to the grocery store is essential, but the message that needs relayed here is to only be going to things you almost can’t survive without,” she said.

Businesses that keep operating need to have policies in place that keep people six feet away from each other, she said. Mobray also answered questions commissioners had about the virus.

In other action, commissioners approved the appointment of Chris Holliday, representing the banking industry, to the IDA board as recommended by IDA president Donald Dodd.

Under commission reports, first district commissioner Dennis Purcell said a crew will be patch grading only on county roads 6430, 4210, 6220, 2470, 2430, hauling material to 6430 and 6420 and cutting brush on 5530.

Second District commissioner Gary Larson said a crew will be grading on county roads 2150, 3300 and 4437, hauling material to 2150 and 3300, cutting brush on 2380.

Skiles reported he attended the Covid-19 meeting Friday at the firehouse and had a conference call with the County Commissioners Association of Missouri about the ongoing health crisis.

Curley reported absentee voting continues through June 1 and the last day to mail out an absentee ballot is May 20.

At Thursday’s meeting, county collector Shannon VanKirk reminded the public to call her office at 729-3911 for a tax payment receipt. Most business can by conducted by fax, email or regular mail. Assessor Jamie Homeyer asked citizens to call 729-6010 with any questions and to use the drop box to drop off assessments lists.

Purcell said a crew will be out checking and cleaning culvert and pipes, checking for downed trees, limbs and weather permitting would be out Friday making more improvements. Due to rain, the crews have not been able to grade.

Larson said a crew would be out checking roads and cleaning out culverts and hauling gravel Friday, weather permitting. Due to the rain, the roads are soft and his crew can’t grade either, he said.

Commission agreed to get diesel bids by phone for the road and bridge department and approved the bid of 88 cents per gallon from MFA Oil Co.

Bids were opened for grader blades and approved the bid of Viebrock Sales & Service for $12,369.

Sarah Massengale, with University of MO Extension reported that the Executive Committee Council voted to close the office, but will take appointments on Monday, Wednesday and Friday to arrange drop off testing of soil and hay. They will also offer students who are home and need internet access to call them. The 4-H Expo is still scheduled, but weigh-in changes have been made.