Port Arthur, Mid-County cities differ with mask mandates following governor’s opening
Published 12:20 am Friday, March 12, 2021
Port Arthur and the three Mid-County cities all have slightly different rules in connection to Gov. Greg Abbott’s rescinding of the statewide mask mandate.
Port Arthur City Hall and annex building has restricted access at this time and only reopened its doors Feb. 23, a little more than a week before the governor’s announcement.
Cheryl Gibbs, public information officer for the city of Port Arthur, said masks are required to be worn in city buildings and social distancing is also required.
While city hall and the annex building are open, visitors are encouraged to schedule an appointment prior to visiting.
A security guard is posted in both lobbies and upon entering a building, visitors have their temperature taken. Your temperature must not be above 100.4 degrees for access to enter.
Security guards assure everyone is wearing a mask and if needed, a mask will be provided.
Security guards also keep a list of visitor names and the employee there are there to see. If a citizen needs customer service in utility billing and collections, a sign-in sheet is not required.
Once a city employee is notified of a visitor, that employee is required to meet the guest in the lobby and walk them to the meeting location.
There are also rules for using the elevator: only two individuals in the elevator at one time, wash/disinfect hands before using the elevator buttons and no loitering — only go to the designated floor of their appointment.
Groves City Hall has been closed to the general public for the most part during the pandemic.
“We will stay in alignment with the CDC guidelines and look at every single department based on needs,” city manager D.E. Sosa said.
Some department have a glass protector such as in the public works office and the employee there is behind the glass when she speaks with guests coming to get permits and such, Sosa said.
City council meetings remain a hybrid with some people allowed inside chambers socially distanced while others can view the meeting on Zoom.
Lance Billeaud, Groves fire chief and emergency management coordinator, is requiring visitors to wear masks inside the buildings and staff to wear masks any time they come in contact with the public. More sanitizing will take place as more people come into the buildings.
The city’s activity building remains closed to rentals at this time as the city follows CDC guidelines.
“They say stay away from large gatherings,” Billeaud said. “We are taking it on a monthly basis for rentals.”
The center does allow guests, but the number is limited to 20 at a time, he said.
Billeaud said there is a recommendation to other city first responders to not change protocol when out on calls; wear a mask and the proper PPE when you encounter the public.
The Nederland City Council voted unanimously to continue maintaining COVID guidelines for safety in facilities and buildings, city manager Chris Duque said.
Inside the council chambers, chairs are distanced for visitors and Zoom is also used.
This, he said, will continue for several months.
City hall did not shut down other than a 2-week period in April when non-essential staff was set home; the rest of the staff continued to work.
Masks are required of all city employees.
In general, the city has not had any real complaints with the masks or safety measures.
“It hasn’t been a problem, and we do not want to create a problem,” Duque said.
Port Neches has been a bit looser with the mask orders, and city hall has been open during this time.
Visitors are encouraged but not required to wear a mask, city manager André Wimer said.
Employees wear a mask if they come in close contact with a visitor.
Port Neches Police Chief Paul Lemoine said the recommendation still stands for officers to continue wearing masks when interacting with the public and social distancing isn’t possible or if out in the open.
Wimer also announced the city’s splash park will open on Friday.