Starting next month, the Fulton County Board of Commissioners’ meetings are returning to an in-person format for the first time since June due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
And when they resume with the May 5 meeting, they’ll take place in Assembly Hall, the board’s venue that underwent a five-month, $3.5 million renovation that was completed in December.
“You will not recognize it when you go back in there,” said Anna Roach, the county’s COO.
Roach provided an update on Fulton’s reopening plan at the board’s April 21 recess meeting, which was held virtually due to the outbreak. The board was going to resume in-person meetings in December, but a Thanksgiving-related surge in COVID cases forced the county to scrap that plan.
Roach said the board meetings’ return to an in-person setup is part of the county’s plan to reopen many facilities starting May 1, when 11 departments are returning to county offices to restore services on some level. All facilities will require masks, social distancing and other health and safety measures.
Starting May 1, the public can start renting out Fulton’s event venues, but advance reservations are required. Also, county departments will have the option to have public meetings or hearings and can use conference rooms or other spaces but must prioritize virtual options. Beginning on that date, employees also can support safely organized, publicly held events with supervisory approval.
“Most other departments or divisions within departments will not return to a 100%, on-site model,” Roach said. “The county is currently seeing anywhere from a 30% to 90% return to office.”
Fulton’s reopening plan remains a phased approach, with Phase 1 calling for essential services’ offices (clerk, courts, district attorney, public defender, solicitor, marshal, police, sheriff, public works, IT, medical examiner, DREAM, tax, board of health, AFCEMA, E-911 and elections) to reopen May 1.
Phase 2 (also May 1) will include modified openings (libraries (two days a week), internal services, Assembly Hall, HIV Elimination, community development, adult, child attorney, communications, clerk and BH Adol.).
Phase 3 (May 17) calls for staff returning with the senior services adult-day, behavioral health and developmental disabilities. Phase 4 includes two sets of modified openings, with June 1 including libraries (returning to all days), senior services, behavioral health and developmental disabilities and art and July 12 including senior services and arts centers.
The county’s reopening plan also includes convening two simultaneous grand juries to help rid Fulton of its 10,000-case backlog, and jury trials are expected to start in May. Roach said the justice system will use both Assembly Hall and the Fulton government center’s atrium to maximize space while maintaining social distancing.