Granite Shoals City Hall

The city of Granite Shoals is using a portion of federal funds allocated by the CARES Act to make City Hall safer for residents and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. The facility is currently closed to the public. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

The city of Granite Shoals is using federal funding to make City Hall safer for when it reopens to the public.

City Hall has been closed to visitors since March 25 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but staff is still working.

Granite Shoals could receive $281,435 from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. About 20 percent of that amount, $56,000, has come in and will be used to make City Hall compliant with federal COVID-19 social distancing and traffic flow guidelines. 

The rest of the $281,435 is contingent upon Granite Shoals meeting additional federal stipulations. City officials are studying how best to use the money.

The CARES Act was signed into law in March to provide economic relief to individuals, businesses, and local governments that have suffered financial hardships caused by the pandemic.

Granite Shoals Assistant City Manager Peggy Smith is leading the compliance effort at City Hall.

“I was real surprised that (the $56,000) rolled in here pretty quick,” she said. 

The easiest task is purchasing face masks and setting up hand sanitizer stations throughout the building, Smith said. The most challenging will be addressing foot traffic flow and the technology needed to hold municipal court and public meetings. 

“We have begun purchasing additional sanitizer for washing stations,” Smith said. “The changes we need to make to the building are setting it up for traffic flow and social distancing. We want that type of renovation so, when we open, we can open back up for (municipal) court. We had to get additional technology to handle Zoom (online) meetings, and additional computers are going to be required for court.”

She indicated that the new setup would have Municipal Judge Frank Reilly in one room, the prosecutor in another room, and the defendant in a third room. All would communicate via computer. 

Traffic flow must allow for people to enter the building and get to their designated spots with little to no interaction with others. 

“We’re having to put in some doors to help with traffic flow and directions,” Smith said. “We have an open-plan building, so some stuff has become a detriment to doing business. We have to make sure each area is clean.”

She noted that those appearing before the court won’t be able to wait in the lobby as previously permitted. Some might have to wait outside in their vehicles and check in remotely before entering. 

“We’re trying to keep everybody as socially distanced as best we can,” Smith said. “We’re trying to protect the vulnerability of ourselves and our residents.” 

The city is also addressing audio and video needs in the council chamber for when meetings resume at City Hall. Currently, the City Council conducts virtual meetings via Zoom. 

Even after in-person meetings resume, the city’s plan is for residents to still be able to watch meetings on computers or devices. Leaders have received positive comments from those watching meetings via Zoom. 

“There’s hardware that needs to be installed (to make that happen),” Smith said. 

The next Granite Shoals City Council meeting is 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 14, and will be conducted remotely. Check the city’s website for an agenda and how to watch the meeting. 

jfierro@thepicayune.com

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