UPDATE: Dougherty Co. issues court, business plans during coronavirus crisis

UPDATE: Dougherty Co. issues court, business plans during coronavirus crisis
(Source: WALB)

ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - In an effort to decrease the spread of the coronavirus, Dougherty County Government has closed the Government Center, Central Square Building and Judicial Building to the public, until further notice.

Also, effective immediately, due to the continuing spread of COVID-19 virus, the Magistrate Court of Dougherty County will close the court office through April 3, 2020. The Courthouse office will re-open on April 6, 2020, with limited staff to answer the telephone and receive mail.

The Courthouse will continue to remain closed to the public. A Magistrate Judge will be available for arrest warrants, first appearance hearings, as well as Family Protective Orders.

The Magistrate Judge will be at the Dougherty County Jail daily at 8:30 a.m. The on-call Magistrate will review arrest warrants, search warrants, and other orders at his/her home.

On the Judicial circuit, Chief Superior Court Judge Willie Lockette extended the Judicial Declaration of Emergency to May 18, with new information on possible exposed jurors during the State v. Jazzy Huff trial that occurred on March 2. Some of the proceedings that are suspended include not only trials but grand jury sessions, arraignments, calendar calls, child support court and others.

The Magistrate Court will close its operations until April 13, or until further order from the Supreme Court of Georgia and the chief judge of the Superior Court of the Dougherty Judicial Circuit. The Magistrate Court will continue to perform essential operations, including first appearance hearings and acceptance of applications of temporary protective orders, as well as issuing arrest and search warrants.

A magistrate court clerk will be present during business hours to answer phone calls. State Court will not be holding arraignments in Room 300 of the Dougherty County Judicial Building on March 27, April 3 and April 10.

“If you received a traffic citation to be in the state court for one of those Fridays or a notice from the State Court Division of the Office of the District Attorney to appear in State Court for arraignment, do not appear,” Dougherty County officials said in a press release. “A notice with a new court date will be mailed to your home address if the State Court has a valid address for you.”

Those unsure of when to report to court can call the State Court Division of the Office of District Attorney at (229) 431-3212. Those who do not wish to challenge a traffic citation can waive the appearance bond by paying online at doughertypay.com or call to pay by phone at (1-855) 255-5939.

“If you received a summons for jury duty for Dougherty State Court or a notice for trial or trial subpoena for trials the weeks of April 6 or 13, you may disregard those as trials will not occur those two weeks,” officials said. “A notice will be sent to you from the court or from the State Court Division of the Office of District Attorney as to when to report for criminal calendar call or for their trial.”

For hearing notices sent for civil matters which fall within the 30-day judicial emergency period, if a hearing involves the presentation of evidence or the testimony of witnesses, the hearing will be reset for the date after the judicial emergency order has expired. If a hearing notice is for oral argument on a pending motion or for a status conference/scheduling order hearing, those will be handled via telephone, if possible.

Those with questions about the status of any civil hearing, can contact Civil Case Coordinator Amy Cox at (229) 431-2152 or acox@dougherty.ga.us. The State Court will operate a skeletal staff during this period, but the phone for State Court will be manned at all times during regular business hours. Motions can continue to be filed via PeachCourt, however, the judge is requesting litigants email these to his attention with copies of any motions or responses to motions at jostephenson@dougherty.ga.us.

Victims of domestic violence who need to seek a temporary protective order should not come to the Judicial Building without first contacting a representative of the Victim’s Assistance Division of the Office of the District Attorney at (229) 438-3985 or a representative of Liberty House at (229) 439-7065.

Representatives of those agencies will then contact the magistrate on call to arrange for a time for consideration of any ex parte temporary protective orders (TPO). Full hearings for TPOs will be set for a date after the judicial emergency has expired.

Requests for dropping of special conditions of bond will be postponed until the Judicial Building has reopened to the public. Those requests will not be handled by mail or phone.

County staff departments will practice a combination of alternating schedules and telework to continue to serve the public via phone and online, but to limit employees in the workspace at one time. County officials will continue to monitor the situation regarding this public health crisis and will re-evaluate conditions, as necessary.

Dougherty County Solid Waste Management will be open to the public, receiving waste during regular hours each day. Visitors to the landfill should expect somewhat of a delay due to limited staff in the weigh station and other areas of the landfill, as employee schedules are staggered to foster social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Below is a list of county services that are also available online at Dougherty.ga.us:

  • Tax and Tag Office (Tag: (229) 431-3255; Tax: (229) 431-2130)
  • Motor Vehicles: Tag renewal, Payment of insurance fines and Check the status of vehicle insurance
  • Property Tax: Make Property Tax payments (Full or Partial), Check the balance of Property Tax Bill and Download Homestead information
  • Occupational Tax/Business License: Renewal of business license Voter Registration Services (229) 431-3247
  • Absentee ballots for the General Primary Election
  • Voter Registration Services
  • Voting Questions Public Works (229) 430-6120
  • Engineering
  • Parks and Gardens
  • Environmental Control Human Resources (229) 431-2122
  • Applications and Vacancy Announcements
  • Benefit Enrollment Documents or assistance with Core Benefits
  • Retirement/FMLA/Leave
  • Workers’ Compensation
  • Training and Development
  • Other HR Related Requests

For a full list of county departments and services available online, visit click here.

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