county courthouse full view

The Clinton County Courthouse.

CLINTON — Clinton County officials and courthouse personnel are looking at protocols to put in place prior to reopening the courthouse, a date for which has not yet been determined.

Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker said the Clinton County Courthouse security committee met Friday to discuss when county court proceedings could begin. Van Lancker said the county courts are adjusting very well to the current situation of being closed and completing business electronically.

“Really, they are not in a huge rush to open,” Van Lancker said. “They are very interested in making sure that their offices stay healthy as they know it would be a harder mountaintop to climb if their office was to go down due to illness. So they’re being very cautious that way.”

Clinton County Board of Supervisors Chairman Dan Srp said one comment from Clerk of Courts Kim Hess during the committee meeting was she believes the building physically may be ready to open June 1 but said the planning, policy and procedures are the challenge with the situation. Srp said the county needs to figure out how the courthouse traffic flow for witnesses and jurors and those heading to small claims or magistrate court should be managed.

“I don’t believe the restriction is on Clinton County,” Srp said. “I believe that we’re providing what needs to be provided at the fullest and it’s now up to the courts to figure out how to make it work. They’re going to continue to work on that. They’re continuing to seek guidance from the state level about how they should overcome some of these challenges. And we certainly, I think, fully support getting them up and running as soon as it’s realistic, practical, safe and available. And it seems that the largest challenges is the system and the procedure.“

Van Lancker said he got the impression the local court administration is OK with taking June to get procedures completed and maybe not look at opening the courthouse to the public until July. Srp agreed that was “the tenor of the discussion” but added there was no formal discussion that July was a target or opening date.

Clinton County Supervisor Jim Irwin Jr. questioned whether the county should reassess its goal of opening county buildings June 8. The county still has not set an official opening date for county buildings.

Van Lancker, citing information he received last week, said the county may want to consider moving the opening date back. He questioned whether the county is ready to ensure distancing at the administration building. He has had discussions with County Treasurer Dustin Johnson about how to deal with people lining up in the hallway. Van Lancker suggested the county may want to consider handling business by appointment for awhile.

Johnson believes each county office has different needs and interaction levels. Srp is not opposed to a phased-in approach for opening county offices. He believes this would create the need for more communication with the public.

Board Vice Chairman Tom Determann believes the opening of the county courthouse and county buildings are separate issues.

There was no action taken at Monday’s meeting.