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COVID Concerns Discussed at Commissioners Court

Sunday, November 29, 2020
COVID Concerns Discussed at Commissioners Court

Shaun McDonald, Gaines County Golf Professional, answered questions from Judge Tom Keyes at the commissioners meeting on Nov. 24 concerning a suggestion to limit play at the golf course to county residents only. After much discussion, the commissioners agreed to wait two weeks before making a decision on the request by area golfers. (Photo by Marilou D. Horton)

Highlights of the Nov. 24 Gaines County Commissioners Court meeting included the decision to require masks in all county buildings, a discussion of whether to limit the county golf course to locals only and a change of hours for both the Seminole and Seagraves branches of the library.

As the commissioners discussed potential action regarding issues deemed necessary in response to COVID-19, Judge Keyes brought up the importance of wearing masks and social distancing. In an effort to slow the spread, a motion was made to require anyone entering or working in the courthouse to have some type of facecovering when social distancing is not possible.

When asked if county employees would be made to wear a mask even when talking to residents behind plexiglass, Judge Keyes said, “Yes,” adding that it would be difficult to explain why a visitor has to wear a mask when a county employee does not; it needs to be required across the board when social distancing is not possible, he stressed. The judge added it would be difficult to enforce the employees are not abiding by the rules as well. “Anyone who refuses to put on a mask when asked to do so will have to leave the building. If they don’t leave, we will call law enforcement,” the judge said.

As a result, the commissioners voted unanimously to begin requiring masks in all Gaines County buildings effective Wednesday, Nov. 25. Signs have already been posted at all entrances to the courthouse.

Judge Keyes said that he had been asked by several Gaines County golfers that the local golf course be closed to residents outside of the county. According to several board members, golf courses in Hobbs have been closed and many New Mexico residents are making the trip to Gaines County to play. Golf professional Shaun McDonald said he does not see the new visitors as a problem. He added that sanitation measures have been taken throughout the course as well as in the pro shop. McDonald added that he would do whatever was decided by the board, but he did not see the course or golf in general as a superspreader.

After much deliberation, the court approved a motion to table a decision for two weeks. Action will be taken during the next commissioners court meeting. “ I understand (the concern) following the numbers and looking at this (a spreadsheet). I thought we had reached a plateau, but we have not. We are learning as much as we can and these numbers will be a roller coaster for quite some time,” Judge Keyes said, adding the following analogy: “We can make the mistake of overreacting. When you get in the shower and you turn on the water, and all of a sudden it’s too hot, you turn it and then it’s too cold, and you have to adjust it.” In two weeks the court will make an “adjustment” to the issue if needed.

Librarian Sabra Hall addressed the commissioners asking them to consider changes for the hours of the Gaines County Library System. Both locations, Seminole and Seagraves, are currently open on weekdays from 9 a.m.- 6 p.m. Hall asked the court to move the hours of operation to 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. or 8:30 a.m.- 5:30 a.m. effective Jan. 1 “I shared with Sabra that one of the reasons I like 9 to 6 is that it’s when people are off from work and can run to the library. My concern is that it’s dark at that time and I don’t like these ladies having to walk to their cars in the dark, “Judge Keyes said.

It was decided by the commissioners and Hall that both libraries will begin opening at 8:30 a.m. and will close before dark, at 5:30 p.m. A motion was made and approved by all.

Additional business included approving an update for vehicle code computers for precincts and the approval of a contract with Rain Bird for irrigation at the Gaines County Golf Course. Judge Keyes and members also signed an interlocal agreement with the Regional Public Defenders Office Legal Government Corporation to provide the level of service previously provided by the Regional Public Defenders Office for Capital Cases to represent indigent capital murder defendants in Gaines County.