While King George County works on reopening government offices after Memorial Day, one county department has tried another trick in the book to keep services going.

Smoot Memorial Library has kept patrons reading—and its staff working—even though it has been closed since mid-March. By switching to curbside pickup, Smoot has become the only public library in the Fredericksburg region to continue supplying not only best-sellers from James Patterson and J.D. Robb, but also tax forms, Census information and even craft kits.

Smoot staffers have provided 6,174 library materials through 913 curbside pickups from March 17 through Thursday, said Director Robin Tenny. The total doesn’t include various forms, Garden Week booklets or packets of make-your-own greeting cards and friendship bracelets.

The library already had craft materials on hand for sessions that had to be canceled, so workers put the items into packages to go.

“We’re very happy about the use and trying to figure out what else we can provide through curbside,” Tenney said, adding that the library’s maintained its average number of checked-out materials, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Residents such as Meredith Rinko and her two sons, ages 9 and 3, are grateful. They’re regular library patrons anyway, and she said the curbside service has allowed them to continue some sense of normalcy, such as bedtime stories. It’s also provided much-needed activities.

“When you’re at home, twiddling your thumbs and trying to figure out what to do, going outside with a book is always a good thing,” Rinko said.

Likewise, she said she appreciates the “personalized service” a smaller library can offer. Members of the King George Board of Supervisors have said the same.

“Our little Smoot Library is providing a needed service to our residents,” Chairwoman Cathy Binder said during an April town hall.

Fellow member Annie Cupka concurred.

“Our library never missed a beat.” she said.

Even after the library reopens, it will continue with curbside service, at least for a while, for people who aren't comfortable entering the building, Tenney said.

‘BEING OVERCAUTIOUS’

Meanwhile, King George is looking to reopen its county offices at a slower pace than other governments in the Fredericksburg region. Its four-phased plan calls for county employees who aren’t able to telework to return to offices Tuesday, after the installation of plastic barriers and social-distancing markers, similar to what’s used in grocery stores.

County offices are expected to reopen to the public on Thursday.

In addition, workers will be screened daily and those with temperatures above 100 degrees will be sent home. Because visitors are protected by the barriers, or “sneeze guards,” they won’t be screened unless they have to be in the building for a long period of time.

“We’re being overcautious on the basis of trying to get a good understanding of what this pandemic looks like,” said County Administrator Neiman Young. “We have county employees working close to each other, and the last thing we want to see is an outbreak in a public facility.”

King George had one employee whose family member tested positive for COVID-19, Young said. The employee was quarantined for more than two weeks, then was authorized to return to work.

In such situations, county workers can use leave under the Family First Coronavirus Response Act, which allows them to take time off without using their personal sick time, Young said. The maximum time an employee can use is 80 hours.

Employees also are required to let their bosses know when they’re feeling ill or if they have family members who are sick.

Supervisor Jeff Bueche, who has regularly questioned the severity of the state lockdown and shuttering of businesses, said he hoped one person with a temperature wouldn’t trigger a closure of an entire department.

“In reality, people still get sick,” he said. “Not everything’s COVID-19.”

RESUMING HEARINGS

Everyone who enters the Revercomb Building is asked to wear masks, and a limited number of customers will be allowed access into each county office, according to the proposal. Likewise, visitors would be asked to come in through one entrance and leave through another to avoid passing each other in hallways, Young said.

County offices will still close at 3:30 p.m. each day for deep cleaning.

The Board of Supervisors will continue to meet remotely until the governor lifts the ban on gatherings of 10 or more.

However, supervisors want to be ready to resume public hearings and to deal with ordinances and planned developments, such as the Villages at King George Crossroads, as soon as the ban is lifted. They asked Young to present a plan June 2 on how to deal with hearings that might draw a large crowd.

Binder suggested holding them at a larger venue, such as the King George High School auditorium, to assure people have enough room to social distance. All board members agreed.

“I think we need to move forward and get back to business,” Cupka said.

Supervisor Jeff Stonehill added: “I say let’s get back to what normal will look like in the near future.”

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425

cdyson@freelancestar.com

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