The city-county Government Center is slated to start opening Wednesday, but Rochester has opted to keep City Hall closed to the public until at least June 1.
“The city will continue to provide city services online and by phone as we work to safely reopen,” City Administrator Steve Rymer said in a statement announcing the city’s decision. “We are focused on supporting the community during these difficult times. This is all meant to assist with decreasing the probability for any spikes in COVID-19 cases.”
The county, however, said it plans to use a phased approach to return to service as the statewide stay-at-home order is relaxed.
“Earlier this week, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced his plans for the reopening of businesses and other organizations in our state,” Olmsted County Administrator Heidi Welsch said in a separate written statement regarding county operations in the shared building.
“Many Minnesotans have eagerly awaited this news, but it’s important to note the governor stressed reopening should not occur until organizations have appropriate safety plans in place. Olmsted County has developed a strategic plan for reopening, which involves new protective measures to minimize health risks,” she said.
The county’s plan focuses on areas where a backlog of work has been seen since buildings closed in March.
“A good example would be driver’s license and passport services,” Welsch said. “To get back to providing face-to-face services like that in a COVID-19 world, many things will be changing, and the experience will be very different for visitors.”
County employees will be wearing masks when the doors open, and Plexiglas shields have been installed, along with signs and markings to support physical distancing.
Visitors will also be asked to schedule arrival times for service. An online tool for check-ins and scheduling arrival times is expected to roll out Wednesday.
When the county’s Property Records and Licensing offices open, a variety of services will be available. They include:
- Birth certificates/death certificates
- Driver’s licenses/state ID cards
- Marriage licenses
- Property tax services/payments: Residents can continue making payments at the drop-box located at the Government Center entrance.
- Recording of real estate documents
The first phase of opening on Wednesday will also allow the Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office to begin accepting new applications for permits to carry firearms. Appointments will be required.
The Civil Warrants window on the second floor of the Government Center will also be open starting Wednesday. However, the Civil Division of the Sheriff’s Office is not accepting eviction paperwork, due to a statewide executive order.
The county is also discouraging the public from making in-person criminal reports to law enforcement at the Government Center. Reports can be addressed by the department’s Communications Unit at 507-328-6800, and immediate threats can be reported by calling 911.
All other Olmsted County buildings will remain closed to the public. County staff reports it will be phasing in additional programs and services slowly over time.
City and county officials said they plan to continue communicating plans as decisions are made to increase access to the Government Center and other public buildings.