Crawford County officials taking steps to reopen county courthouse building
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Although no specific date to open up the Crawford County Courthouse building has been selected, county officials began the steps to start that process last week.
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners held a virtual meeting on Wednesday, May 13.
The board passed a motion to bring back essential staffing to provide critical services once the county is given the green light to open the courthouse building.
Crawford County Administrator Paul Compo said the plan includes provisions recommended by insurance carriers and other emergency agencies. It needs to be in place with the State of Michigan in order to be opened back up for business.
Compo said that county employees could do some things by appointment, but said the building should probably stay closed while the stay-at-home order is in place. He added that Doug Pratt, the emergency management director for Crawford County, believes the stay-at-home order will be extended.
Social distancing measures will be implemented when the building is reopened, and employees and those entering the building will have to undergo health screenings.
Entrances and exits to the building will also be monitored.
Benches in common areas of the building will be replaced with chairs to promote social distancing.
People entering the building will be asked to wear face masks.
Pens, used by patrons signing documents, will be separated and sanitized at the end of each business day.
A security strip has been installed that will require people to have a card to enter the vault area in the county building, where deeds, circuit court records, and vital records are stored.
A plexiglass screen will be installed in the vault, where Chief Deputy Circuit Court Clerk Sarah Medler works. Only one person will be allowed to enter into the vault area at one time.
Compo said that one machine, which allows people to research property deeds, has been moved to the basement level of the building.
Plastic sheets will be installed in the District Court offices and the treasurer’s office to serve as a divider between employees.
The county board approved a new federal COVID-19 leave plan that would apply to law enforcement, corrections officers, and 911 dispatchers should they become infected with the virus. The plan would allow the employees to receive the same benefits offered to other employees while they are in a mandated quarantine.
The board agreed to extend employee health insurance policies through June as long as the employees pay their portions of the monthly fees.
Compo reported the annual household hazardous day scheduled for Saturday, June 20, as well as the scrap tire clean-up, which is funded with a state grant in conjunction with the townships, has been cancelled due to social distancing and bans on gatherings.
Compo said the cancellations of the events, which will be held at the same time next year, will help the county save some funds.
With decreased activity taking place, Compo projected that the county is facing a $300,000 budget shortfall for the current fiscal year. He said the county has $400,000 in fund balance, but remained hopeful that revenues will pick up once court operations and law enforcement resume regular activity.
“It’s something we’re going to have to monitor every month and see where we are,” Compo said.
Compo informed the county board that Jonathan Baber, the assistant prosecuting attorney for the county, resigned to take a job with another municipality downstate.
He said county leaders are interviewing prospective applicants for the position. Since some are coming fresh out of law school, Compo recommended the position be filled as soon as possible to face a backlog in cases, which was caused when the stay-at-home order was issued in late March.
“Once this opens up, they’re going to get slammed because everything is being held right now,” he said.
The county board passed a motion to allow Crawford County Sheriff Shawn M. Kraycs to purchase a new patrol vehicle for the sheriff’s office.
County leaders said they would address the purchase of the vehicle in the spring, and Compo said there is enough funding in the sheriff’s office road patrol budget for the vehicle.
“I think he’s got the money this year, and I don’t know what it’s going to look like next year,” Compo said.
The board also gave its general consensus to direct Compo to have bond counsel draft language for a millage which would be placed on the November 4 general election ballot. The county would seek a half of a mill to fund the school liaison officer as well as an officer assigned to the Strike Team Investigative Narcotics Group (STING) unit.
Last year, county and city officials brokered a deal to jointly fund an officer on the undercover narcotics team.
Compo said he is concerned that city officials will pull out of agreement due to employee hardships placed on the Grayling Department of Public Safety due to coronavirus pandemic.
“There is no way we would be able to fund an officer for the program, and it is a valuable program,” Compo said.
The cost share for the school liaison officer is supported by 60 percent of the funding coming from the county and 40 percent coming from the Crawford AuSable School District.
County Commissioner Jamie McClain said both positions should continue to be funded due to an uptick in mental health issues and drug abuse during the pandemic.