Ralls Courthouse Now Closed to the Public
On March 19, 2020, the Ralls County Commissioners held their regular Thursday meeting at 9:00 a.m. at the Courthouse. The Commissioners began by discussing the current status of the county in the fight to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Eric Murfin, Ralls County’s Emergency Management Director, called in and shared that he has met with the branches of first responders – 911, Fire, Law Enforcement, EMS, and Health Department. In his assessment, he feels that countywide, we are doing pretty good. He is trying to obtain a supply of the N-95 masks to distribute to those responders. He added that this situation is evolving every day. All responding agencies are doing their best to perform their duties in a safe and timely fashion. Wiley Hibbard, Presiding Commissioner, commented, “The people in charge of all agencies are doing an amazing job of working together without an abundance of bureaucracy. “
Murfin reported that at this time Westview Nursing Home is shut down to any visitors. Ralls County R-II Schools had developed a plan and implemented that plan with few problems when they shut down Wednesday. County Fire Departments, Law Enforcement, and EMS have all altered their protocols to protect their people and the community as they respond to calls.
New London Fire Department has offered the use of their training building as a site for any responders that have been exposed to the virus to stay while they are considered contagious.
The Ralls County 911 building has been re-equipped and established as an emergency dispatch center for any dispatchers that have been exposed but are still able to work. If the situation escalates, the building can also be used as a command center.
911 dispatchers will be pre-screening all calls with a series of questions to determine the possible threat level to responders. Fire and Law will not be responding to medical calls that appear to be virus related. When EMS is dispatched, there will be three staff members responding in the ambulance, one of which is a supervisor. Once on scene, the supervisor will follow prescribed safety measures to pre-identify the possible exposure to the virus.
The Ralls County Health Department is pre-screening anyone who enters their facility and following prescribed safety measures when working with their clients. The Health Department has also offered their facility as an EOC, Emergency Operations Center, if needed.
Sheriff’s Department, New London Police, and Missouri State Highway Patrol are working together and have developed a plan to provide coverage for the county.
Presiding Commissioner, Wiley Hibbard, asked Murfin if the actions being taken are having an effect? Murfin replied, “Yes, definitely! Taking proper precautions now will help out in the long run.”
The Commissioners then discussed the need to close the courthouse to all but employees. Marion, Pike, and Monroe have already done this. Input was sought from the County Officials as to the impact to their offices.
Chief Deputy, Ron Haught reported that the Sheriff’s Department has reallocated staff and added additional staff so there will be three officers on duty, on all shifts. They will be roaming the county 24/7.
Gina Jameson, Ralls County Circuit Clerk/Recorder of Deeds advised the Commissioners that she is receiving guidance from the Missouri Supreme Court. They have postponed most in-person hearings through April 3; other cases are being handled by phone or video conferencing. The cases that cannot be postponed or handled by alternative methods, will have to be heard. In those cases, the people involved will wait in their vehicle until called. When called they will be asked screening questions and have their temperature checked. Associate Judge David Mobley joined the commissioners and agreed with Jameson. Circuit Judge Rachel Shepherd was called and she also agreed. Dockets across the 10th Circuit are being reviewed and either postponed, handled by alternative methods, or scheduled. Cases will be heard one at a time and a limit will be placed on the number of people allowed into the courtroom for each case. Again, people will wait in their car until their case is called. Judge Shepherd stressed that they will accommodate people as much as possible.
Gina Jameson also had to modify protocols for anyone seeking to search records in the Recorder’s Office for the purpose of title research. Requests will be made by phone with a time scheduled for their research. One person will be allowed in at a time and the office will be sanitized after each person. Again, screening questions will be asked before being admitted into the courthouse.
Ralls County Assessor, Josh Ketsenburg, advised that most everything in his office could be handled by phone or email.
Tara Comer, Ralls County Collector, stated that she has been advising people that need to make a payment to do the following: To pay online go to www.rallscountymo.net Click on County offices and then click on Collector. This will guide you to the pay now button. OR: Mail a check to Ralls County Collector PO Box 340 New London, MO. 63459. OR: Drop payment in the drop box (located at the east door). Drop box will be checked at 8 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. Receipts will be mailed back to the taxpayer.
Ralls County Clerk, Sandy Lanier, called in to the meeting and advised that Absentee Voting is still going on for the Municipal Election. That election, which was scheduled for April 7th, has now been pushed back to June 2nd by Governor Parson. Absentee Voting will continue through June 1st. She and her staff will provide curbside service to collect those ballots. Filing for the August election is open until March 31st. That paperwork can also be done by curbside service. Phone the Clerk’s office and a staff member will come out to the vehicle.
Chief Deputy Haught asked if closure would include the Sheriff’s Department lobby. Probation and Parole uses their building for face to face meetings and for substance screening. There could be 100 people in and out of their lobby on a busy day. Judge Shepherd shared information that she had received that stated that Probation and Parole will be meeting with their clients by phone. No face to face meeting for the next two weeks.
Jim Meyer, Ralls County Extension Office, said that they are and will continue to hold their Extension Council meetings via ZOOM. They can handle most of their business by phone or email. Curbside service is also an option for them. Daniel Mallory added that as of today, the Bull Sale is still on.
Road and Bridge won’t be affected by closing the courthouse. They are and will continue to be out working.
Kimberly Majors from the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office advised that they can handle the majority of their business by phone and email.
The Commissioners then discussed their meetings which have to be open to the public. It was decided that the meetings could be held via ZOOM. An account will be set up and the log in information will be made available for anyone who wants to call and join the meeting. Call in Number: 1(773)231 9226 Meeting ID: 2172779998
Upon the conclusion of these discussions and with an intent to protect the employees of the courthouse, as well as the public, a motion was made to close the courthouse to all but employees, effective immediately and to stay enforce until further notice. That motion was passed.
Contact information for Ralls County offices:
Circuit Clerk 573-985-5633
Associate Circuit Judge 573-985-5641
Recorder of Deeds 573-985-5631
Prosecuting Attorney 573-985-5681
University of Missouri Extension 573-985-3911
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