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Parish offices close, Police Jury meeting canceled

Tuesday, March 24, 2020
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The Lincoln Parish Courthouse, adjacent annexes and the Police Jury Complex on Homer Street are closed to the public, the Lincoln Parish Police Jury announced Monday morning. The special jury meeting previously scheduled for tonight has also been canceled.

These moves were taken in response to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ “Stay at Home” order issued Sunday, in addition to reports of Lincoln Parish’s first two confirmed COVID-19 cases the same day.

Public offices in the now-closed buildings include the Third Judicial District Attorney and judges, the parish Clerk of Court, Assessor and Registrar of Voters, and the GIS offices.

“We’ve closed buildings to the public and put a notice on the doors. Each office is making its own decision on how it wants to interact with the public,” Parish Administrator Courtney Hall said.

Members of the public who need to conduct business with any of these offices are encouraged to call or email. Some offices, like the district attorney and assessor, may not answer but say they are checking their voicemail regularly and will return calls.

The police jury was slated to hold a public hearing tonight to complete the last requirements needed to wrap up a Louisiana Community Development Block Grant sewer system rehab project in the Water Tank Road area.

After the public hearing, the jury was also going to interview the three applicants for the parish treasurer position and select a replacement for current treasurer Holly Lowry, who is taking a position at the sheriff ’s office in April.

“We will still have to hold the public hearing at some point,” Hall said. “The state is waiving a lot of the deadlines for things like this. We’ll just have to reschedule. We’ve contacted the individuals who were scheduled for interviews and told them we’re postponing those as well.”

Hall said the jury is considering the possibility of teleconferencing or video conferencing for meetings in the near future. A proclamation from Edwards on March 16 granted state and local bodies the emergency power to hold meetings this way, as that would usually run afoul of the Open Meetings Law.

“We are looking into remote-access meetings, but we’re not set up to pull the trigger on that this fast,” Hall said. “We just didn’t think it would be wise, especially with two cases appearing in Lincoln Parish over the weekend, to proceed with a chance of exposing not only our elected officials but members of the public (to the virus).”

Another change is that Department of Corrections inmates are no longer allowed to leave the Lincoln Parish Detention Center. DOC inmates on work release often assist the parish’s public works employees on work and litter crews, so Hall said some services may be slowed in the meantime.

“We’re going to strive to provide the same level of service we always have, but that’s certainly going to diminish our capability to timely address routine-type stuff,” he said. “A lot of times the work release crews help us with bridgework and culvert installations. The public is going to have to be patient, as it’s going to take us longer to get those types of things done now.”

The landfill and highway department are still operating and performing essential services.

The library, which closed on March 18, will remain closed at least through the end of the month. All events at the expo center have been canceled through April 13.

Shelter and pavilion rentals at Lincoln Parish Park have been canceled through that same date, and the park’s playground is closed. However, the park itself is still open to visitation. The HELP Agency is limiting customer service hours: Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and Community Services Block Grant activities will end at noon each day, while transportation activities will continue on an appointment basis.