Bloomington city hall opens in limited way on Tuesday, mask wearing promoted by #WearItBtown

Bloomington’s city hall, closed to the public since the third week of March, will re-open in a limited way next Tuesday, the day after Memorial Day.

The city’s mayor, John Hamilton, gave a reminder about the limited re-opening at Friday afternoon’s weekly press conference. Local leaders give updates on COVID-19 issues every Friday at 1:15 p.m. through an event live-streamed on the city’s Facebook page.

Hamilton stressed that the city is still encouraging residents who need to do business with the city to take advantage of services by phone or the city’s website, if possible.

Among the new protocols at city hall is a requirement that visitors wear a face covering. For people who don’t have one, a free mask will be provided.

Community-wide mask wearing is being promoted by Monroe County with a new webpage and a social media hashtag promotion called  #WearItBtown. The hashtag is supposed to kick off on Memorial Day.

The idea is to put on your face covering, take a selfie, then upload it to your preferred social media site with the hashtag #WearItBtown. Local leaders are also promoting a five-point COVID-19 prevention pledge.

On Thursday, The Square Beacon took a look inside city hall to check out the way visitors will be allowed into the building. Big signs make clear where visitors have to stop—you can’t venture past the lobby.

So how are people are supposed to be able do things like apply for a Bloomington Parks Foundation Scholarship, register for any parks and recreation programs that are still scheduled to run, pay or appeal a parking ticket, get translating or advocacy services, or get questions about zoning answered—if they can’t leave the lobby?

According to public engagement director Mary Catherine Carmichael, the staff will come to the lobby.

Visitors will check in at the counter, give their name—for future COVID-19 contact tracing, if it’s needed—and describe their business. The receptionist will round up the right staffer to come to the lobby. Four numbered tables are set up, where visitors can talk to the right person, separated by plexiglass shields set up across the middle the table.

Carmichael described how public works department staff crafted the shields from larger sheets to save the cost of purchasing ready-made items. Computer cable has been run to the lobby to allow terminals to be set up. The city’s online financial system shows an iPad was purchased for $398 from The MacExperience to take credit card payments in the lobby.

Public works staff also provided square footage numbers from building diagrams, Carmichael said, so that signs could be posted on every conference room indicating maximum occupancy—based on 50 square feet per person. City council chambers has a sign posted with a maximum of 41 people.

In case there’s a line of people waiting for service the four tables, chairs spaced at least six feet apart are set up for people to bid their time without standing.

A week from next Tuesday, the city hall lobby will again be closed for regular city business, because the building is one of the seven official polling sites for the June 2 primary in-person voting on election day. Voters can check online to confirm where they are supposed to cast their ballot in person.

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The city’s director of public engagement, Mary Catherine Carmichael.

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