Beaumont’s city manager Todd Parton reported to his city council Tuesday evening that he has been in discussions with his staff about reopening city hall to visitors again, since the civic center has been closed to the public during the coronavirus pandemic.
He presented several proposed protocols that will be implemented upon reopening, including physical distancing for all visitors, staff and public officials; allowing phone-in and e-mailed public comments as an option for public input during meetings; providing a queuing space outside the council’s chambers for those who wish to address the council in person; the wearing of face masks; and the prohibition of individuals who exhibit signs of illness.
A handful of staff has been working at city hall during the quarantine, though most have been telecommuting.
A couple of council members have opted to participate in council meetings via online platforms, since their seats have to remain vacant in the council’s chambers to follow a 6-foot physical distancing requirement.
Some staff would return to city hall on a “rotating basis” beginning June 29, and the civic center would open between 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Thursday starting the week of July 6, Parton said.
“As traffic increases, we could modify that schedule to achieve city functions while still adhering to protocols,” Parton said.
He explained that, since staff has to be physically distanced, some of the overflow rooms at city hall would be commandeered for them, leaving little space for citizens who prefer to attend public meetings in person.
The meetings will still be broadcast online.
Councilman Lloyd White suggested opening the gymnasium as a staging area for queuing those who wish to approach the dais.
Councilman Julio Martinez expressed concern about the city’s proposal to prohibit those who may be deemed ill, wanting to know who among city staff and officials would be “qualified to determine illness, and can be admitted? We need to do it with tact and without discrimination.”
Parton said that, since city hall will require masks at its meetings, they would provide them to visitors who arrive without one.
White wanted to know how the city handles a situation where a citizen refuses to wear a mask, since they have a right not to, “What if they say ‘You can’t make me’”?
The council voted unanimously to reopen Beaumont’s city hall.