Town halls reopen their doors to the public

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FREDERICK COUNTY, Md (WDVM) — As businesses in Maryland continue to reopen, so too are municipal town halls in Frederick County. 

“People can conduct almost all of their business with the town right here,” Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird said while standing in the town hall lobby.

On Monday, Thurmont and Middletown both opened their local government building doors to more than just employees. 

“Everyone knows we were going to have to reopen at some point. What we did is we came up with a plan,” explained Andrew Bowen, administrator for the Town of Middletown, “That plan we developed two weeks ago. We were just waiting to see where the governor would go with things.”

And with the reopening of businesses and restaurants outdoor dining, the municipalities have once again allowed residents to come by on town matters–like paying a bill.  

In Middletown, residents can enter only through the main entrance.

“We are only have the front door unlocked that way we can monitor how many people come into our building. In our lobby, when we reach 10 [people] Then we will start a queue for people to come in,” Bowen explained. 

Cleaning crews come by twice as often and staff wipe down their office space at least twice a day. 
Bowen says one advantage of having more employees in the building has been quicker responses.

“If I had a question for the zoning administrator but he wasn’t in, it might take a day or two to get the answer. Again, we were still responding to people’s questions but it took longer,” said Bowen. 

And in Thurmont, residents approaching the town hall are met with several signs that lay out safety guidelines, including the use of facial coverings.  

Inside, a Plexiglas barrier separates visitors and staff. Social distancing guidelines are handled as only one person is allowed inside the lobby at a time. 

Kinnaird says while all town matters can still be done by phone, email or by a drop-off box just outside, seeing people in person again has been missed. 

“It is always nice to see people face to face,” Kinnaird said, “When you talk to someone on the telephone, it is nicer to see them face-to-face.”

Officials in both Middletown and Thurmont remind residents that they are not required to come by in-person to pay bills or correspond with the municipalities, they can still call or send an email.  

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