It was a groundbreaking meeting Wednesday for Warren Fiscal Court, and not because of the routine bill paying and rezoning items on the agenda.
Normally packed with county department heads and visitors, the fiscal court meeting room was nearly as empty as any local bar or restaurant these days as Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon presided over a meeting conforming to “social distancing” rules promoted by Gov. Andy Beshear and others because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“This may be our last gathering as a group for a while,” Buchanon said, looking out over a room in which the six magistrates were spread out to keep at least the recommended 6 feet between them. “We’re wiring the courtroom in anticipation of one or more of us being quarantined by the next meeting.”
In fact, Buchanon said, the next fiscal court meeting scheduled for April 13 will be a “virtual” meeting done through videoconferencing and broadcast on the Spectrum cable company’s local government access channel.
Warren County Attorney Amy Milliken said that would comply with an opinion issued by state Attorney General Daniel Cameron last week in which he gave public agencies the green light during the current state, local and federal state-of-emergency declarations to conduct public business via video and teleconference.
Both Cameron and Beshear said public agencies must provide livestreaming of audio and video from those meetings for the public as a way of conforming to open meeting laws.
Buchanon said such “virtual” meetings would be the norm for “the next month or two, depending on how quickly we can get this under control.”
In a meeting in which Buchanon spent the first 20 minutes reinforcing the importance of complying with the social distancing and other mandates ordered by Beshear, the magistrates gave formal approval to the state of emergency declared by Buchanon last week.
The judge-executive said the measures are necessary to avoid the kind of spread of the COVID-19 disease that has occurred in New York, California and some European countries.
“We’re encouraging everyone who can to stay at home,” Buchanon said. “If you have to get out, we encourage social distancing. This is a way of slowing this virus so we can get back to normal.”
Buchanon said it took some time and the information provided by health care professionals to convince him that extreme precautions are needed in the fight against the coronavirus.
“Many of us were minimally concerned at first,” he said. “But let me assure you that this is real. This is not something that anyone needs to take lightly. If we don’t slow this down, we will overwhelm our health care capabilities.”
In addition to entering into the record Buchanon’s March 16 executive order declaring a state of emergency, the magistrates approved some spending items Wednesday.
They approved spending $7,720 for four power sweepers to be used at the four regional county parks, and they voted to spend $17,548.75 for Carpet Place of Bowling Green to replace the flooring at the parks and recreation department headquarters at Basil Griffin Park.
“This is a good time to do it while the gyms and parks are closed,” Buchanon said.
Also approved was a contract with Toshiba for copiers and printers for the Warren County Regional Jail that will cost $891.92 per month for 48 months.
The magistrates voted to approve spending $3,090 for Capitol Window and Door to replace the chapel windows at Griffin Park, and they approved spending $2,225 to DC Elevator for a full load test on the elevator in the county courthouse.