Warren County commissioners approved a declaration of local state of emergency during an emergency meeting held Sunday afternoon jointly with a quorum of the Warren County Board of Education to discuss issues related to COVID-19 and the governor’s order the previous day that all K-12 public schools be closed for at least two weeks effective March 16.

The declaration included the towns of Macon and Norlina, but not Warrenton, which approved its own declaration Monday.

Chairs were spaced about six feet apart, in keeping with recommended social distancing guidelines, with the sheriff manning the entrance to keep attendance at under 100, the maximum allowed for public gatherings under the governor’s executive order. Multiple hand sanitizer stations were set up.

In addition to the emergency declaration, the county commissioners approved a temporary increase of the county manager’s spending authority of $50,000 to allow for emergency expenditures related to COVID-19 response, if needed. Such expenditures could include those related to Warren County Schools or county government operations. The board also approved temporary suspension of water and sewer disconnection for non-payment for county customers for 60 days. This does not apply to water and sewer customers for the towns of Norlina and Warrenton; however, the Warrenton Town Board adopted its own suspension on Monday. Norlina has taken no official action regarding its water customers.

County Manager Vincent Jones asked that residents conduct county business as much as they could via telephone, pay online and use drop boxes to lessen staff interactions.

Senior Center, library closure

Tuesday afternoon, the county announced that the Senior Center and Warren County Memorial Library would be closed starting today (Wednesday). 

Staff will still be on site at both agencies to answer phone calls. 

The Senior Center home-delivered meals service will continue as normal; those seniors that typically come to the center for congregate meals can be switched to home-delivered meals by request (criteria must be met). Seniors with need must call the Senior Center to request the home-delivered meals program. Those individuals needing to purchase liquid nutrition should call the Senior Center and set up an appointment. The Warren County Senior Center can be reached by phone Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. at 252-257-3111.

Library staff is available by phone Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. For information and assistance with online resources, call staff during this time. 

All renewal dates will be extended. Patrons are asked to use the book drop outside to return all materials. For more information, call the library at 252-257-4990, visit the Facebook page at warrencountymemoriallibrary, or the website at wcmlibrary.org/.

Other county services

The county has suspended all recreation department activities, including access to the John Graham Gym, through at least April 6.

The Warren County Public Utilities office is still taking in-person water payments; however, it is recommended that citizens limit exposure to others as much as possible by making payments online or using the outside dropbox.

Information resources

Warren County government has established a COVID-19 Hotline that citizens may call for information or with questions. The telephone number, which is staffed Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m., is 252-257-7132.

The county also has a centralized area on its website at warrencountync.com where citizens may access information related to COVID-19. A quick link can be found on the website’s homepage. New information will be updated as it becomes available related to local government cancellations, closings, health alerts and community health information. Links are also provided to connect residents with Warren County Schools, state and federal agencies and local news outlets.

Warren County Schools

Warren County Schools has been distributing instructional packets this week and has set up food distribution sites at Vaughan Elementary School, Northside K-8 School and Warren County High School. The sites will operate from 10:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. Monday-Friday for pick-up of student breakfast and lunch for the duration of this event as long as Warren County Schools can continue to receive supplies or until acted upon by the legislature, according to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mary Young.

During Sunday’s meeting, Young addressed staffing and said that it would be determined which staff would need to work which days, but that everyone would receive a paycheck.

Custodial services and transportation staff have begun additional cleaning, she said.

Prior to the governor closing all public schools, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association had announced that all high school athletics statewide had been suspended until April 6. 

Additional information about Warren County Schools is being made available on the school system website at warrenk12nc.org and on the Warren County Schools Facebook page.

Charter school

Principal Warren Bell said that the Haliwa-Saponi Tribal School made student packets available beginning on Monday. They can be picked up through today (Wednesday) until 6 p.m. The packets contain a week’s worth of work with textbooks and academic binders. The school will designate a day next week, either Wednesday or Thursday, when the school will be open from 7 a.m.-6 or 6:30 p.m. for students/parents to return completed work and pick up a new packet. 

This weekly schedule will continue while schools are closed. Bell said that online resources are available for parents, including communication with teachers, through the school website, hstsedu.org. On Mondays through Thursdays, the school will deliver lunches to students at their homes.

Warrenton

The Warrenton Town Board, during an emergency meeting held Monday afternoon, approved a declaration of local state of emergency in the county seat.

The board also approved a 60-day temporary waiver for disconnection of water for nonpayment and no reconnection fees for those customers who would normally be charged those fees, and to reconnect six customers whose water had previously been disconnected for nonpayment. Those six customers will still have to pay a reconnect fee.

In-person visits to Warrenton Town Hall are now restricted, and the doors to the building will be locked. A notice explaining procedures will be on the door.

Water customers used to paying their bills at town hall will now need to pay their bills in the dropbox, by bank draft or by credit or debit card over the telephone in keeping with the social distancing recommendation due to health concerns related to COVID-19.

Town Administrator Robert Davie said that the two town employees who work at the front desk handling water payments are in the high-risk category and cannot be reassigned.

Citizens who have questions about these procedures or any other town concerns can call town hall at 252-257-3315.

Warrenton police protection will continue to be provided 24 hours a day, seven days a week with minor changes, such as limiting some types of face-to-face contact.

Court system

As of Monday, March 16, local courts have postponed most cases in district and superior court for at least 30 days due to health and safety concerns related to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Although the superior courts and district courts remain open, superior court and district court proceedings will be rescheduled for at least 30 days, with some exceptions including obtaining emergency relief such as in the case of domestic violence protection, first appearance and bond hearings, and other issues.

The Warren County Clerk of Court’s office will operate its regular office hours.

Other

A representative with Kerr Area Transportation Authority said that KARTS will continue to provide transportation to dialysis and medical appointments. 

With the rapidly changing environment related to COVID-19, The Warren Record is publishing information relevant to local citizens to its website, warrenrecord.com, and Facebook page at facebook.com/WarrenRecord as it becomes available.

To help get information, such as local cancellations and availability of services, such as at Loaves & Fishes food pantry, out to members of the public through the newspaper’s resources, email news@warrenrecord.com or call the office at 252-257-3341.