EMERALD ISLE — Emerald Isle is unlikely to reopen its administration building – closed now for nearly two weeks since an employee tested positive for COVID-19 – anytime soon.
Town Manager Matt Zapp said Wednesday he and other officials have been monitoring the number of cases in the area, and don’t think it would be prudent to reopen the building to the public.
“We’re really back about where we were in numbers at the beginning of this whole thing,” he said of virus cases. “For the safety of the employees and the public, we’re going to keep the administration building closed for the time being.”
Some town employees who were potentially exposed are still quarantining and working at home, Mr. Zapp said, but he doesn’t believe there has been any interruption or decline in the services provided to residents and property owners.
In fact, Mr. Zapp said, like many businesses, Emerald Isle is finding it can be just as efficient with the doors closed. Some staffers are in the administration building during the workweek, completing on-site tasks.
As long as the novel coronavirus is still present in large numbers, Mr. Zapp said, “we just think it’s prudent for us to continue doing things this way, for now.”
The town’s two fire stations and the police department have remained closed to the public since the pandemic began affecting the area in March and will also remain closed, as well.
The town has used a contractor it hired earlier this year, ServePro, to sanitize buildings and town vehicles when necessary. Town staffers have also done some of that work.
“We were forward-looking when me got that contract, and they have been very responsive,” the manager said of ServePro.
The town is also taking steps to make sure Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, will be safe. The community building, on Leisure Lane northwest of the police department, is a polling place and it has been and will continue to be sanitized.
The community building/recreation center has been operating on a reduced schedule since the positive employee test, but there will be no other activities in the facility on Election Day.
The employee COVID-19 case has affected other things in Emerald Isle. When the town moved the Oct. 13 commission meeting to Tuesday, it had to postpone a commission decision on proposals from contractors to develop a comprehensive stormwater management plan. There were seven very thorough bids, Mr. Zapp said, and a decision will be made Oct. 27.
He said he knows some people might think the town has over-reacted, and officials aren’t going to enter the ongoing debate over masks. They are simply continuing to “encourage” residents and visitors to wash their hands frequently, social distance and wear face masks in public.
“What we’re doing is taking a pro-active stance to protect the health of the public and our employees,” Mr. Zapp said.
Meanwhile, the town is looking into ways to improve communications, visual and audio, during sessions in the commissioners’ meeting room.
The improvements envisioned will make the online meeting experience better and should enhance the ability for those in the room to hear and see presentations when live meetings begin at some point in the future.
The town has federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act money to pay for improvements and is talking to vendors about equipment and other changes in the room. Mr. Zapp said the upgrades should bring the meeting room firmly into the 21st century.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.