Erwin, Unicoi County implement coronavirus precautions

Sue Guinn Legg • Updated Mar 21, 2020 at 4:51 PM

ERWIN — Unicoi County and Erwin have joined the growing number of local governments taking action to control the spread of coronavirus COVID-19.

On Friday, County Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely cancelled Monday’s meeting of the County Commission, citing two newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Washington County and one in Greene County.

In a notice cancelling the meeting, Evely said, “We are in uncharted territory and we want to take every precaution to keep citizens and our commission members safe.”

“It’s getting closer and closer to us and who knows if by the first of the week we’ll have a confirmed case here or not,” Evely said.

Citing pending state legislation that would allow local governing boards across the state to meet via telecommunications, Evely said, “At this point, with the virus being what it is, it’s kind of up in the air if we’ll be able to have some kind of alternative meeting.

While the Unicoi County Courthouse will remain open, “We are taking the measures we can to hold down courthouse traffic and keep people as safe as possible, our employees and our community,” Evely said.

On Thursday, the county issued a notice advising all visitors to the courthouse to use only the rear entrance on the Church Street side of the building, effective Monday, March 23.

The town of Erwin issued a statement late Friday setting out new protocols for town business, including the suspension of town meetings and a request for residents to refrain from visiting town offices in person if possible.

While municipal offices will remain open, the town is encouraging citizens to use its free online bill pay system at www.erwintn.org for services including building permits, business licenses, taxes and citations. 

While payments may be made by mail to Erwin Town Hall, P.O. Box 59, Erwin TN 37650, the town requests citizens call town hall to receive their current billing amount before mailing in a payment.

For urgent business, the town requests citizens call 423-743-6231 to be directed to the appropriate department head. Essential service offices will be closed to the public but can be reached by phone for assistance with non-emergency matters at the following numbers: Erwin Police Department, 423-743-1870; Erwin Fire Department, 423-743-5201; Public Works/Street Services, 423-330-6660.

City services such as solid waste collection and brush pickup may be delayed as the town adjusts to potential fluctuations in staff levels.

“All organizational meetings at Erwin Town Hall have been suspended until further notice...The Board of Mayor and Aldermen meetings will only be held for time-sensitive and required actionable issues as town officials investigate the use of alternative methods to conduct board business. Meeting updates will be posted on Facebook and www.erwintn.org.”

According to the statement, the town is “taking the necessary precautions about the unprecedented circumstances related to the COVID-19 virus to help keep our employees safe.”

Town employees “are practicing CDC-recommended hygiene and social-distancing practices. We have increased cleaning and disinfecting procedures at our facilities and vehicles to aid in maintaining a healthy environment for our employees and customers. We have instructed employees who do not feel well to stay home out and monitor their symptoms.”

The town will continue to adapt its policies as more information becomes available and to encourage Erwin residents to focus on education relating to their safety and that of their families.

Erwin citizens with health concerns are advised to contact the Regional Health Department at 423-979-4689, Ballad Nurse Connect at 833-822-5523 or their primary care physician.