Commissioners plan to install protective glass in offices

JAMES BEATY | Staff photoPittsburg County commissioners, from left, Ross Selman, Kevin Smith and Charlie Rogers, are looking at installing protective glass and a cabinet at the entrance to their offices at the county courthouse.

County commissioners don't plan to make new restrictions for entering the Pittsburg County Courthouse — but they do plan to install protective glass and a cabinet barrier in the entrance to their offices.

They are also looking at installing another section of protective glass and a cabinet in the Pittsburg County Court Clerk's office.

Commissioners are looking at making the installations as cases of COVID-19 cases increase in Pittsburg County and much of the state. The most recent weekly report issued by the Oklahoma State Department of Health on Sept. 8 showed 449 active COVID-19 cases in the county and three new deaths. Pittsburg County and most of the rest of the state remained in the orange risk phase.

Asked if they had any plans to reactivate previous COVID-19 restrictions that were removed in April, commissioners said they did not.

"Hopefully, this will cover it and we won't have to," said District 2 Commissioner Kevin Smith,

Commissioners said they were considering the installation of additional protective glass for the safety of staff. Most courthouse offices already have glass barriers in place.

"To help with prevention is the deal," Smith said. He said installation of the new safety measures will enable the commissioners' office staff at the courthouse "to have less contact with the public."

Pittsburg County Commissioner Chairman/District 3 Commissioner Ross Selman agreed.

"The only reason is for the girls' sake in there," Selman said, referring to the commissioners' courthouse office staff.

Currently, anyone can freely walk into the entrance to the commissioners' office, where members of their office staff have their desks and workstations. Placing the new glass and cabinets or counters would still allow the public to access the office, but they would be separated from the staff by the protective glass.

Smith said the plan to place additional protective glass in the county court clerk's office is to cover an open space where no protective glass is currently in place. Most of the court clerk's office already has protective glass in place, and another addition should cover the rest of it, he said. Kevin Smith and Pittsburg County Court Clerk Pam Smith are married.

Although items calling for consideration and action to award a vendor to make the installations were included on the commissioners' Monday meeting agenda, they tabled the items. Smith said there was not sufficient information regarding quotes for the cost of the project.

During the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, commissioners required those wanting to enter the courthouse to have their temperatures checked at the building's handicapped entrance.

Protective masks were required and at one point, individuals having business to conduct at one of the courthouse offices had to state their reason for wanting to enter the building and which office they needed to visit. That usually resulted in someone from that office meeting with them outside the building, or else escorting them to the office where they needed to go.

Commissioners voted in April to remove the general courthouse restrictions, including a temperature check and the requirement to wear a mask when entering the building, effect April 30, 2021.

While the commissioners have no plans to place new restrictions on entering the courthouse, judges have their own protocols in place regarding courtrooms at the courthouse. District 18 District Judge Mike Hogan issued an order effective Sept. 8, 2021, ordering everyone entering the courtrooms to wear a protective mask

Other courthouse provisions in place include a limit of no more than 10 people in a courtroom at a time, which includes the judge and court personnel, and a requirement for witnesses to wait outside until called.

Hogan's order states it does not include crime victims.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

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