Genesee County officials give update on operations during crisis



GENESEE COUNTY — While many county offices are closed and personnel have been sent home, some offices remain open for business amid COVID-19 virus crisis.

Officials from various Genesee County offices gave an update Monday about whether or not their departments were open for business and how they were serving the public during the pandemic shutdown.

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said he’s sent his support staff home for the next three weeks, while attorneys will only come in as needed.

“We’re going to abide by the necessity for a reduced number of people in public buildings,” he said at the March 16 press conference.

Chief Judge Duncan Beagle of the 7th District Court in Flint said while most court cases have been sidelined during the shutdown, the courthouse will remain open with a single point of access on the first floor, with a security checkpoint on Beach Street, to conduct essential services.

Treasurer Deb Cherry said her office will be closed through April 5, which also happens to be the period of time when people come to make a prevention plan to avoid foreclosures on their homes.

Usually that deadline is March 31 to avoid foreclosure, said Cherry, but the county is extending it through end of May and county treasurers statewide will ask the governor to extend that further. Cherry said people should pay by mail as she will have people working in the office taking phone calls, but they will not be dealing directly with the public.

“We don’t want to foreclose on anyone who’s experiencing problems from COVID- 19 or other hardships they might have,” said Cherry.

Judge Christopher Odette of the 67th District Court said the outlying courts will be closed the next three weeks, observing the social distancing edicts. He said the court will be providing essential services, however, by keeping the Central Court open at the McCree Building in downtown Flint.

“As I said, only for essential services. Felony and misdemeanor arraignments of individuals, the issuance of warrants and the authorizing of search warrants,” said Odette. “We recognize it’s a difficult time, but we will continue to serve Genesee County residents both in the city and outside the city. When back fully staffed we’ll be ready to go.”

Clerk and Register of Deeds John Gleason asked the public to remember it can access many services through his department online, by visiting gc4me.com.

“We will continue utilizing online services, we know there are a lot of personal, private ordeals that are transitioned through our office to the families – weddings, funerals, DBAs (Doing Business As) – day to day occurrences that come to our offices,” said Gleason. “Be patient and utilize those services.”

Interim Sheriff Chris Swanson said his department will continue doing what it can to keep the public safe. He said the sheriff’s office doesn’t halt operations.

“We have inmates to take care of and they are well taken care of. We have increased our sanitization, we’ve tested every inmate in custody, we’ve moved all inmates to the main jail, we’re still allowing visits, we’re still allowing recreation,” said Swanson. “We’ve doubled the time prisoners can get out and about. We’ve also included a representative of every faith to serve our inmate population.”

The interim sheriff added that when the public calls 911, it will still get a public servant – police, firefighters and EMS.

Chairman Martin Cousineau of the Genesee County Board of Commissioners said he is proud of the department heads and elected officials at the county level for stepping forward and forming a response to the COVID-19 crisis.

“It’s been all hands on deck to do our part to combat this virus that’s going around and I commend them all,” he said. “It’s made the board’s decisions to take the various actions much easier.”

Cousineau said with the county declaring a state of emergency, it will allow Genesee County to tap into any state and federal funding to recoup any costs it has going forward to combat the virus.