The Town of Warrenton will close the Warrenton Aquatic and Recreation Center at 800 Waterloo Road and the Warrenton-Fauquier Visitor Center at 33 Calhoun St., effective immediately.
Town Manager Brandie Schaeffer added that although the Public Works Department at 360 Falmouth St. and the Police Department at 333 Carriage House Lane will continue to operate normally, both departments will be closed to visitors. Residents who require service or have questions may call Public Works at 347-1858 or the Police Department at 347-1107.
The changes follow the governor of Virginia and the president of the United States declaring a state of emergency because of the threat of the coronavirus. Schaeffer said, “We’ve been talking about it for the last three to five days. We didn’t want to wait until we had disease transmissions."
She added, “We are taking a long-term look at this. This is not a snowstorm that gives us a tough week. We have been told that we should be prepared for this to last three to four months, up to a year. We want to be sure we can continue to provide vital services to our residents throughout.”
At this time, Town Hall will remain open to the public; access will only be permitted through the front door.
“As the coronavirus has spread, we have learned one reliable lesson: that by taking decisive action early on, we can slow the spread of the disease and save untold numbers of lives,” Warrenton Mayor Carter Nevill said.
Schaeffer said in a press release, “We have implemented cleaning protocols established by the CDC and Virginia Department of Health. Town staff have been instructed to stay home if they feel ill, or if a member of their household is ill, or if anyone in their household has travelled outside of the country in the last 14 days.
“We ask that if you visit Town Hall, you follow the posted instructions to protect your health and the health of our staff.”
The release added, “These measures are being taken out of an abundance of caution. This is an evolving situation, so we appreciate your patience as we respond to changing conditions. For the most current information regarding the status of any town facility, service or event, please visit the Town’s website (www.warrentonva.gov), Facebook page, or call the main phone number (347-1101).”
For now, Schaeffer said in a follow-up phone call, there will no other effect on services. “We will continue to provide all essential services. Trash pickup will continue. You will still be able to schedule inspections.”
She said that anyone who needs help with permitting should come to the front desk of Town Hall, rather than to the Community Development office downstairs. “We are relocating the Community Development permitting desk to the first floor of Town Hall. It’s another way to reduce employee interactions with the public. We are trying to keep everyone healthy and make sure the government stays operational.”
Schaeffer said there is a silver lining in this current health crisis. Employees who work at the WARF and the Visitor Center will be reassigned to do necessary tasks that the staff has not had time to complete. The WARF will get a deep cleaning, for instance. And with town employees getting ready to move into the new Town Hall on Main Street, there is plenty of packing and cleaning to do.
“We’ll complete a needs assessment and reassign according to what people’s skills are and what needs to be done,” she said.
Schaeffer said that the WARF’s temporary closing will also provide the opportunity for some of those staffers to be cross-trained at other front desk positions.
She assured that for the immediate future, “I have no intention of laying off anyone. I am 100% confident. There is plenty of work to do.”
Schaeffer said that the membership dues at the WARF will be evaluated with members depending on their membership. She said she anticipates that credits or refunds could be coordinated.
Schaeffer said, “This is an initial step in this process, to make sure our government can stay operational. If we can reduce sickness, we can stay up and running. At this time I envision no impact to the level of service we provide to our residents and businesses.”