Branch County Commissioners Tuesday officially continued partial closures of all county buildings after Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended Michigan’s stay-at-home order through May 15.
Chair Ted Gordon said “we are really in tough times now. Maybe by then we can get back to at least opening up our courthouse at least partially. Our past normal is gone. It will be a long time before we get that back.”
County offices are closed and operating by appointment only. Those with business can call the appropriate office and make arrangements to take care of the business. It often means scheduling a time to meet an employee from the office at the courthouse front door to deliver or pick up paper work.
Court cases are continued except for those in custody. Then the proceedings are conducted over a video link from the jail or prison. The Michigan Supreme Court has continued limits on courts until June 22.
County Clerk Terry Kubasiak said “we are doing everything by phone, email, fax, and mail. It’s pretty much business as usual,. We are taking care of everyone.” She has a drop box outside the courthouse to receive papers for filing.
The only service she cannot perform is to receive new application for Conceal Pistol Licenses. Those require in person fingerprints which are not availible.
“Renewals can be done online,” Kubasiak said.
Register of Deeds Nancy Hutchins said her office has only one employee at a time. Many are using electronic recording of records. Her office now does tax certifications necessary for recording.
“We haven’t missed a beat,” Hutchins said. Those who want recorded documents returned must have a self-addressed stamped envelope since she doesn’t have postage.
For now, for those who wish to search records online and don’t have accounts, “we have waived the fees.”
Employees have staggered work shifts, alternating days or weeks to work otherwise staying home. This to make sure there are employees availible if someone does test positive for COVID-19, there are other who would not have to quarantine.
While loosening some restrictions on the state’s businesses, last week’s order does not affect county government. The stay-at-home order was issued to stop the spread of the coronavirus.