This article was updated at 3:15 p.m.
County operations may change as part of the statewide, two-week freeze. The text of the governor’s executive order regarding the freeze, which has yet to be released, may or may not omit government buildings from closing their offices to the public and mandating work-from-home as much as possible.
Whether or not the order affects local government offices, it is unlikely to have a major effect on residents seeking county services, but it may push more county employees to work from home.
In a special meeting held to discuss the two-week freeze on Tuesday morning, Nov. 17, the Columbia County Board of Commissioners postponed making a final decision on how to proceed with county facilities until the governor’s order is released.
As it stands now, county offices and buildings are mostly closed to the public except for by appointment. There was a four-week period from Oct. 26 to Nov. 16 when the courthouse annex was open to the public without appointments for tax and elections business, but the building is now back to appointment-only access.
“When we first went into this, out protocols were that department heads would have people who were able to work from home work from home,” Commissioner Margaret Magruder said.
County department heads joined the conversation to share how they have adapted their departments to transition employees to work from home when possible, or stagger when employees come in.
“Most interactions with the public are over the phone, then we make appointments,” said Mike Russell, director of public works. “It would not be a big change for us to continue doing that.”
Depending on whether Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order affects government offices, the county may issue a new order changing its facility access policies.
“As far as actions we can take here, our existing order is fairly succinct,” Commissioner Henry Heimuller said. “After yesterday we’re back to no free-for-all for people and we’re by appointment. I’m a little disappointed in the governor’s office not having all of us have that executive order by now.”
When the executive order concerning the two-week freeze is released, the commissioners will hold an emergency meeting to decide what to do next.
Update: At 3 p.m. Tuesday the governor's office released the executive order for the two-week freeze. It restricts businesses from allowing work in offices if telework or work-at-home options are available, however nots that the order does not apply to offices and buildings owned or occupied by the state legislative and judicial branches, federal government, local governments and tribal governments.
The commissioners have not yet commented on the order.