FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Forsyth County is beginning a soft open of government operations next week with an eye to resume limited in-person service by June 1.
As a preamble to the launch, the County Commission held its first public hearings in two months May 21 during an online meeting on Zoom. While the slate of items up for public hearing included no controversial zoning requests, it marked the first time since early March the public was allowed to directly address commissioners.
County officials now say they are prepared to shake off the dust from government offices and begin bringing in employees.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to start bringing some people back in and start to improve on service delivery,” County Manager Eric Johnson said.
Those services, for the most part, will remain remote to the public until June 1 when tentative plans call for allowing personal visits to offices by appointment.
At the same time, plans call for those employees who have proven efficient at working from home be allowed to remain out of the office for the time being. This will free up valuable supplies of personal protective equipment for those workers who do report for duty, Johnson said.
Forsyth County Emergency Management Director Chris Grimes said the county received shipments of 16,000 disinfectant wipes and expects additional deliveries of spray disinfectant and thermometers in the coming days.
In addition, officials said the county’s team of building inspectors now are equipped with sufficient protection to resume home inspections May 26.
In light of the phased reopening of government offices, the County Commission voted unanimously Thursday to end its Emergency Compensation Plan for employees on May 24. The plan provided continued pay and benefits for those employees who, for a host of verifiable reasons, were forced to remain away from work and could not perform their regular duties remotely. Employees who took advantage of the plan, about 50, were still required to check in regularly with supervisors to explore other duties they could adopt in lieu of their regular jobs.
County officials pointed out that certain employees who would still be unable to report for some type of work after May 26 could still be eligible for 80 hours of full or two-thirds pay under the federal Family First Coronavirus Response Act. The program provides financial assistance for individuals who are unable to report to work for a variety of reasons associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
County Manager Johnson said the compensation plan made sense when government offices were closed off because the county had inadequate protections against spread of the virus. With supplies now on hand, that threat has diminished, he said.
Johnson lauded commissioners for instituting the plan in the first place.
“I continue to see around the country local governments laying employees off or furloughing them,” he said. “And we’ve gotten word that the state may be furloughing their employees, so you provided a somewhat unique and very beneficial benefit for dozens of your employees.”