Allen County adopts new courthouse closure policy

First Posted: 2/4/2014

LIMA — A new weather-related closing policy for the Allen County Courthouse will dictate when county employees are required to come into work.

The Allen County commissioners adopted the policy Tuesday morning, ahead of an impending snowstorm, permitting them to delay the opening of the courthouse to noon instead of closing for the entire day after a Level 2 road advisory is issued.

“First and foremost we are concerned about the safety of the employees of the county because we want them to be safe as they travel to and from work and that is the centerpiece and the focus of our weather policy for the county,” Commissioner Cory Noonan said, acknowledging the former policy was still “a very good policy.” “This policy makes a slight tweak because what we can do is possibly delay the beginning or the opening of the courthouse similar to what the schools do and what a lot of businesses have done over the past couple of weeks.

“Once the road level does dip down to a Level 1 or to no level at all, they [employees] are able to come in and business can open and that is our focus,” the board president said. “Once the weather has cleared and it is safe to travel, the courthouse will open.”

The weather policy still continues to use the road-condition advisories announced by the sheriff and determined by the county sheriff, engineer and emergency management agency as the basis if the courthouse is closed or open. If at least a Level 2 roadway warning is issued between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. and is still in effect at 7 a.m., then the courthouse opening will be delayed until noon. If the Level 2 is still in effect at 10 a.m., the courthouse will be closed for the day.

A Level 2 roadway warning indicates Allen County roadways are extremely dangerous because of heavy, drifted and blowing snow. The courthouse will be closed if a Level 3 state of emergency is issued, which means “extremely dangerous conditions exist. Travel should be limited to those persons with emergencies or extreme necessity.”

The county administrator will be responsible for contacting county officeholders and the media.

County elected officials and department directors can still request employees to come to work, but the county “encourages its employees to report to work, only if in the employee’s judgment, they are able to do so in a safe manner.” Despite any one office being opened, the courthouse still would not be open to the public.

Noonan said the delay will “allow our buildings and grounds time to get out and shovel the drive” and the sidewalks before county employees are to report.

Commissioner Jay Begg said it “is difficult to have a one-size-fits-all” policy considering west-central Ohio’s weather, but the intent was to provide a policy to allow the courthouse to open during the day when weather and roadway conditions improved. He said if the weather turns inclement during the day “they would do their best to make sure everyone has the opportunity to get home safely.”

An early January snowstorm prompted the commissioners to review the former courthouse policy with county officeholders and department directors and to contact area counties regarding their closure policies. Commissioners rushed the adoption of the new closure policy because of a storm predicted to bring between 4 to 10 inches of snow Tuesday through Wednesday, depending on the forecast.

“We’ve been working on it,” Noonan said, “but obviously with what is coming up we wanted to have a policy that is more conducive than what we previously had in place.”

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