Government buildings locked down

By Joseph Slacian

Local government buildings around Wabash County are virtually all on lockdown as a way to fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Public buildings in the City of Wabash have restricted access, as do the Wabash County Courthouse, Lagro Town Hall, LaFontaine Town Hall, North Manchester Town Hall and Roann Town Hall.

“This step is not being taken without great forethought and is the result of recommendations from organizations at the state and federal level to mitigate personal contact,” Mayor Scott Long said in announcing the change on March 17. “The City of Wabash website offers online bill pay services, wastewater, ambulance billing, building department permits and city court offers pay by phone services.

“I encourage citizens paying wastewater at that office to use the drive thru kiosk to pay the bill.”

On the county level, the Courthouse and Wabash County Health Department are closed to the public except by appointment, County Coordinator Jim Dils said announcing the closure on March 19.

In addition, the Wabash County Judicial Center will be closed to the public on Wednesdays and Fridays. There will be limited access to that building on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Dil noted, however, individuals need to call in advance.

Business with all county offices may still be conducted via telephone, email or the county website.

Town of Lagro

Lagro Town Hall is on lockdown until further notice, Clerk-Treasurer Kristie Bone said.

“We have been calling on our elderly in town to check in on them,” she said. “We have told residents if you need anything to call and let us know and we will do our best to get it for them.”

The town is willing to work with residents having financial issues because of COVID-19, Bone said.

“If they call in we will be happy to work with them on a payment schedule and case by case basis, we are trying to do what is best for the community and in the best interest of our utilities at the same time,” Bone said. “We will still continue to follow normal producers for billing. This is unknown territory for us so we are working diligently with legal counsel to work on new policies and procedures to keep us all safe.

Town of LaFontaine

LaFontaine Town Hall has been on lockdown since March 12.

“Our Council President, Jay Gillespie, told us to lock the Town Hall down and not allow the public access until we know more,” Clerk-Treasurer Diana Heath said. “We are very grateful to be in an old bank building and we use the drip box and drive-up window.

“We are disappointed our public cannot come into our lobby, but we know this is best. Our doors will remain locked until we are advised differently. We are still working and someone is in Town Hall Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4 pm. To answer phone calls with questions.”

Town of Roann

The Roann Town Hall is closed to the public, Clerk-Treasurer Bob Ferguson said.

“The clerk-treasurer’s office will be taking phone calls from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday for any questions that our citizens may have,” he said

Although the March Town Council meeting was canceled, town officials are working with Public Access Indiana to find some alternative ways to proceed with the April 14 council meeting.

“We all know that in a time like this our businesses are hard hit,” Ferguson said. “It is up to the community to not only help each other, but to help our businesses to get back on their feet. There is nothing more resilient than a community that works together to move forward.

“Now is the time we want to stand ‘Community Strong.’”
Town of North Manchester

In North Manchester, in light of the current COVID-19 outbreak, the safety and well-being of the Town of North Manchester utility customers and employees are priority. In the interest of protecting  staff while still providing great customer service, the town management is locking the doors to the utility office and asking customers to utilize the the drop-box for utility payments until further notice. Please label payments with your account number and pay with either check or money order.

    Between 8 a.m.. and 5 p.m. (Monday through Friday) cash will be accepted and any change will be applied to your account as credit.

   The utility office takes credit/debit card payments over the phone or utility bills can be paid online through the town’s website,

If your needs can be handled over the phone, please contact call 260-982-9800 ext. 1

Other changes

In addition to restricting access to public buildings, Long postponed City of Wabash public meetings for two weeks and will re-evaluate the policy on March 30.

“We are in uncharged territory, and I will err on the side of caution in all decisions that I make concerning COVID-19,” he said. “I would rather prevent any unnecessary exposure at this point than take a chance on someone being exposed in a public meeting. Our building is not equipped to allow the recommended six-foot social distancing.”

The Wabash County Commissioners meeting on Monday, March 23 was also canceled.

As of now, Town Council meetings in Lagro and LaFontaine are still on schedule, but both clerk-treasurers acknowledged that that could change.

“As of now, our meeting is still on track for the second Monday of the month,” Bone said. “We will make that decision closer to time.”

However, she continued, “all community building rentals have halted for the time being, other activities scheduled to take place we will take one day at a time and cancel them as necessary.”

The next LaFontaine Town Council meeting is scheduled for April 13.

“We will see what the next couple of weeks brings,” Heath said.

In addition to canceling city meetings, Long also announced that the city’s spring clean-up has been canceled. The decision, he said, was made to keep the Street Department employees safe.

“There are multiple reasons for doing this,” he said, “primarily the fact that many unknown factors are in play in regards to the COVID-19 virus. While the virus has been tested in a controlled environment, and the life of the virus has been tested in a controlled environment, it can live in that controlled environment, on hard surfaces, for days.

“We don’t know if it can live on hard surfaces outside for the same amount of time or longer. So, in an effort to keep my employees safe, hold on to your items until the fall. We’ll re-evaluate and do a spring cleanup in the fall.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic is fluid, area residents are trying to make the best of it while attempting to adjust to a new, and hopefully temporary, way of life.

“We need to remain calm,” Long stressed. “Try to establish a sense of normalcy in your everyday lives.”
He urged residents to begin or continue to practice social distancing.

“That means don’t gather in large groups,” he said. “Maintain a six-foot distance between you and other people so as potentially not to get the COVID-19 virus.”

Long suggest that those experiencing cabin fever should consider walking on one of the city’s many trails or around their neighborhood, rather than making an unnecessary trip to the store.

People are doing just that in LaFontaine.

“Everyone is being considerate and our town seems to be staying in, other than some walkers out and about, and helping each other,” Heath said. “One of our residents called and asked if she should check on her neighbors who are elderly and if we knew them and would they mind. She just wanted to give them her phone number and tell them to be sure to call her if they need anything.

“It’s about doing what we all need to do and helping in need where we can.”

Posted on 2020 Mar 24