Government offices around Gwinnett County are beginning to return to normal after prolonged closures that were prompted by the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic.
The Gwinnett County Tax Commissioner’s Office and Sugar Hill government officials announced their respective offices will reopen Monday. Sugar Hill also plans to reopen its E-Center gym, albeit on an amended schedule, on Monday.
Both the Tax Commissioner’s Office and the city of Sugar Hill will be instituting a number of steps designed to limit the chances that COVID-19 will be spread in their offices.
“Our first priority is the safety of customers and associates,” Gwinnett Tax Commissioner Richard Steele said as his office announced its plans Thursday. “The safest option is for people to skip the trip entirely and just renew online or at a kiosk. Next is to skip the line by using our drop box service. For those whose business requires an in-person visit, such as new residents, we’ve made the process as safe as possible.”
Although offices will be reopening, they will not yet be back at full regular operations as government leaders ease back into more traditional ways of doing business.
Residents can pay taxes in person
The Tax Commissioner’s Office, for example, will reopen Monday through Friday service this week, but offices will remain closed on Saturdays. It will also implement a three-step process for dealing with customers. Residents who need to do business with the Tax Commissioner’s Office will check in. They will then wait in their car, and finally, they will go to a staging area when summoned.
Social distancing and regular sanitization of common areas will be practiced at county tax offices. The offices will now also offer contactless payment options, such as Apple, Android or Samsung Pay.
Tax officials are urging residents to be patient if they need to visit an office to make a payment. There are 200,000 residents who need to deal with tag, title and tax issues, according to the Tax Commissioner’s Office.
“Visiting on odd or even days to match birthdays is suggested — not mandated — to split the crowd,” officials said. “For example, a March 25 birthday would visit on odd days such as May 27, 29 and so on; and an April 24 birthday on May 26, 28 or so on.”
Sugar Hill taking a ‘staged approach’ to reopening
Sugar Hill officials already reopened Gary Pirkle Park for passive recreation earlier this month, but the city will take a major step forward on Monday when the E-Center gym and Sugar Hill City Hall reopen to the public.
The customer service department at City Hall will be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays without appointment, but other city departments and services, such as passport services, will require appointments. The post office at City Hall will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. starting Monday as well.
City employees will be provided with masks that they will be required to wear “for the foreseeable future.” Anyone who visits city-owned facilities is asked to also wear a face covering and practice social distancing during their visit.
“We appreciate the community’s patience, flexibility, and support as we work to safely resume in-person city services,” city officials said in a statement. “City staff remain committed to providing continued customer service as we adapt to ensure the safety and health of our community.”
Residents will be able to pay gas utility bills in person at the Customer Service Office, but they can also pay by calling 1-855-748-1345 or visiting ipn.paymentus.com/cp/shga. Convenience fees for telephone and online payments made through June 5 will be credited back to customer’s accounts.
Although passport services will be available by appointment at City Hall, officials are warning residents that the Department of Homeland Security has not yet resumed processing passport applications.
Meanwhile, the E-Center gym will be open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays for the time being. City officials are urging people in high risk categories, such as the elderly and people with chronic health conditions, to exercise at home until June 13, however. Anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19, has been diagnosed with it or who have been in contact with someone who either has it or is suspected of having it is asked to stay away from the gym until they have been cleared to engage in fitness activities.
Gym staff will monitor the facility to ensure compliance with statewide orders covering fitness centers, including prescreening visitors upon entry, enforcing social distancing requirements and sanitizing equipment between users.
Elsewhere in Sugar Hill, the city’s municipal court is expected to resume on June 12 with increased cleaning and sanitization processes, social distancing and the wearing of masks.
The Bowl and Sugar Hill and The Eagle Theatre will remain through June 12 as well.
Duluth, Suwanee and Lilburn reopened this past week
Officials in three Gwinnett cities got a bit of a jump start on their counterparts in Sugar Hill and at the Tax Commissioner’s Office by reopening some offices this past week.
Thursday saw the reopening of Duluth City Hall, the Duluth Public Works Facility, Suwanee City Hall, Suwanee Police Station, Suwanee Police Training Center, Suwanee Municipal Court, the Suwanee Public Works Facility, Lilburn City Hall, the Lilburn Police Department, Lilburn Municipal Court and the Public Works.
Duluth’s Municipal Court is set to resume Monday. New stipulations and procedures will be in place, however.
In Duluth, visitors must wear masks and practice social distancing. In court, the only people allowed into the courtroom will be the defendant and their lawyer, although there will be some exceptions to that rule. The exceptions include an interpreter if the defendant needs one and one parent if the defendant is under 21.
Lilburn officials said residents are encouraged to wear face masks and practice social distancing at those facility. City officials also said the facilities in Lilburn will be cleaned regularly as well.
Duluth parks and recreation buildings remain closed at this time, but the city did reopen the tennis courts at W.P. Jones Park and Bunten Road Park for open play only earlier this month. Public restroom facilities for those tennis courts have also reopened.
Suwanee’s playgrounds are closed and pavilion rentals are suspended, but city parks and restrooms have remained open. The city has cancelled all public events through July 10, however.
Information about the Suwanee’s response to COVID-19, including facility reopenings, is being made available at www.suwanee.com/i-want-to/learn-about/covid-19/.
Water Resources reopens lobby to customers
Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources customers can now go into the lobby of the department’s office in Lawrenceville to pay bills and do other business, but there are limitations.
No more than nine people can be in the lobby at a time and an employee will be stationed there to ensure social distancing takes place. One-way paths have been marked as well.
Despite the lobby’s reopening, officials are still encouraging customers to pay their bills online at www.gwinnetth2o.com/paymybill or by phone at 678-376-6800, Option 1.
Libraries to begin curbside hold pickups later this month
Anyone eager to visit a library soon will have to wait a little bit longer, however.
Officials with the library system said the branches will remain closed to the public until further notice, but that doesn’t mean residents won’t be able to have any interaction with their local libraries. Book drops are expected reopen to accept returns on May 26. The library system will also start curbside hold pickups on that day.
The pick up times will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays.