HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — As of this coming Thursday, the city of Harrisonburg will be closing city hall and all municipal buildings to the public amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
The city says all essential city services will continue and all city employees will continue to work.
Every department of the city will still be accessible by phone and email, and most services through the city are available either online at www.harrisonburgva.gov or through the city drop boxes at City Hall and the Department of Public Utilities.
According to a statement by the city, the decision to close municipal buildings to the public will not affect police or fire, sanitation, or transportation services.
City offices are continuing on their normal hours.
City Council meetings
Unlike other local cities, like Staunton, which has moved city council meetings to a video conference format, Harrisonburg says they will continue to hold city council meetings and that members of the public can still attend.
However, they will be limiting members of the public in the chambers to 10 at most in accordance with Gov. Northam's order on gatherings, and will require anyone attending to exercise social distancing. If more than 10 visitors arrive, not counting city council members, they have plans in place to move extra visitors to different areas of city hall to stay in compliance with the 10-person executive order.
They're encouraging the public to, instead, take part in meetings remotely. A phone line will be live at 540-437-2687 for city residents to call in and speak with city council during the public comments portions of meetings. People can also provide comments prior to the meeting online at www.harrisonburgva.gov/agenda-comments.
“It’s important that we all work together to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” Harrisonburg City Manager Eric D. Campbell said. “Measures like this are vital to protecting the health and wellness of our residents and visitors. We will continue to provide all City services during this time, and residents should reach out to us if they have any questions or are in need of services.”
Other changes to to how the city of Harrisonburg is operating
The city of Harrisonburg is under a declaration of a local emergency that was made on March 16, allowing the city to more quickly allocate needed resources in response to COVID-19, and to potentially be reimbursed for funds spent in that response.
• You can call 540-432-7701 to schedule appointments with staff members at City Hall or to discuss dropping off plans, applications, or other documents.
• Fire houses are closed to the public, but you can ring the doorbell at a station for assistance. In cases of emergency, still call 911.
• You may see firefighters wearing face masks, gloves, and other protective gear while responding to call – That's a precaution to protect both you and the first responders.
• The city's Recycling Convenience Center and Mobile Recycling Unit have been suspended until further notice.
• Anyone with questions about public access permits, street maintenance, sanitation and other Public Works programs should call 540-434-5928.
• Anyone with questions about planning, zoning, building codes & permits and other Community Development programs should call 540-432-7700. Many permits and applications can be completed online at www.harrisonburgva.gov/community-development.
• The Hardesty-Higgins Visitor Center is closed to the public. Anyone with Tourism questions should call Jennifer Bell at 540-432-8940 or email Jennifer.Bell@HarrisonburgVA.gov.
• All Parks & Rec indoor facilities are currently closed. Anyone with Parks & Rec questions should call 540-433-2474 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
• City bus routes and paratransit service is still operating, though JMU routes are currently offline. All fares have been waived. Questions about service should be directed to 540-432-0492.
• The City is not disconnecting water service for delinquent accounts at this time, but billing for usage will continue and payment will be required at a later date. Call 540-434-9959 to speak with someone about your bill if you have questions.
How other local governments have changed functions
We've got a rundown of the closures and changes for each of our local governments here.