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Government pauses, or goes on 6 feet apart, or under a picnic shelter

County commissioners and staffers kept six feet apart during their meeting on Wednesday. County commissioners and staffers kept six feet apart during their meeting on Wednesday.

The Henderson County Board of Commissioners had time-urgent business to conduct Wednesday.

Contractors say the pieces have to fall in place on a rigorous schedule in order to finish the Hendersonville High School demolition, renovation and construction step by step for a ribbon cutting in August 2023. So commissioners convened and approved the final contracts for the $59.2 million project, while seated at least six feet apart.

It was one more startling and unusual spectacle in the unprecedented environment of contact avoidance. So all humans could spread out with an empty seat between them, Assistant County Manager Amy Brantley was banished to a jury boxes on the of the semi-circular meeting table. Commissioner Michael Edney moved to County Attorney Russ Burrell's seat and Burrell pecked away on his laptop, seated in the jury box opposite of Brantley.

The county public health director and emergency management director were on hand to answer questions about the Covid-19 threat — but seated at least six feet apart. Engineers, architects and construction managers attended to explain the contract for the final phase of the HHS work — again separated, as if they were strangers and not team members who worked alongside one another eight hours a day, five days a week.

All business, commissioners efficiently and without rancor blessed the final contract on what looks to be the single biggest construction project the county has ever embarked on, uttered a few congratulatory sentences, adjourned and left the Historic Courthouse, a stately structure that has witnessed many events in its 115 years but nothing like this.

In the hierarchy of county bodies, commissioners occupy the top rung. Below them are a stack of advisory boards that have now found themselves "non-essential." The county Planning Board, Zoning Board of Adjustment and Transportation Advisory Board all canceled meetings over the past two days, and across the county cities were doing the same thing.

Mills River took the unusual step of scheduling a meeting outdoors, like in the old days when a language arts teacher on a nice spring day would lead the class outside to hold forth under a tree. The Mills River board is meeting at a picnic shelter at the town park.

Here are other cancellations or policy statements of other bodies:

  • The city of Hendersonville is restricting visits to City Hall and other city facilities, closing the Whitmire Center and taking other precautions to combat the spread of the coronavirus. The City Council is also holding a special meeting Friday to discuss continuity of operations of city services and consider other measures. The city has suspended all non-essential visits, including tours and facility visits, to city of Hendersonville facilities and barred visitor access to the water and wastewater treatment plants and fire stations and has closed the Whitmire Center. It has also suspended water disconnects and late fees. Postponed or cancelled are all 2020 Walk of Fame events, the March 18 Historic Preservation Commission,the March 19 Special Events Committee and the March 19 Environmental Sustainability Board meeting.
  • The Village of Flat Rock, citing "increasingly restrictive" federal guidelines advising against meetings of 10 participants or more, canceled its March 30 agenda meeting, April 9 Village Council meeting and the March and April Planning Board, Park Commission, Park Foundation and other committee meetings and suspended use of meeting rooms in the Village Hall and at The Park at Flat Rock by outside groups.
  • The Town of Laurel Park asked residents and water customers to limit their in-person visits to Town Hall to conduct business whenever possible and instead handle matters by phone, by mail or online. The Town Hall may be reached at (828) 693-4840 or info@laurelpark.org. The online payment portal and additional information is at https://www.laurelpark.org/.