The Mingo County Courthouse will begin seeing more activity next week as some of the restrictions to use of the facility will be lifted. However, strict guidelines will still be in effect.

“The courthouse has got to be more public-friendly beginning Tuesday,” said Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith. “We sit here and hear reports that restaurants are opening. We hear reports that tanning beds and all these things are opening. We have got to open the courthouse with early voting starting on Wednesday.”

Smith made the motion for the action which passed on a 3-0 vote.

During the discussion, the commission decided to continue to staff offices with “skeleton” crews as much as possible for the next two weeks. That decision will be reevaluated at the June 3 meeting as to whether offices will be fully staffed afterwards.

“It is my thought that we should do this in case we have an exposure,” Smith continued. “That way a whole office wouldn’t get wiped out with one exposure.”

The number of people inside the courthouse at one time will still be limited. Smith said he talked with the county clerk and two voting machines will be set up for early voting.

“Two voters will be allowed in at a time with others waiting outside,” Smith said. “Those waiting outside can register with the court marshals who will let them in.”

Also, the judges and magistrates have decided, as court proceedings begin, only attorneys and clients will be permitted inside the courtrooms. Witnesses will wait outside and will be called in by the court marshals.

The courthouse will also continue to undergo new cleaning and disinfecting protocols that were recently put into place.

“These are the strict types of guidelines that we must follow in order to be able to open the courthouse,” Smith said.

Commissioner Thomas Taylor agreed, saying, “The cautious approach is the best approach.”

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