Communities begin closing municipal buildings to public in effort to stem coronavirus

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Metro Detroit communities are limiting or closing municipal buildings to public as the state grapples with the spread of the coronavirus.

West Bloomfield Township, Livonia and Westland on Wednesday were among the communities to announce temporary closures to residents and visitors. Others, including Dearborn, Warren, Berkley and Grand Rapids, have done the same in recent days. Livonia's 16th District Court will be closed to the public.

Livonia Mayor Maureen Miller Brosnan in a video message on Wednesday informed residents that after consulting with the City Council and leadership, she's ready to "move Livonia to the next phase of healthy isolation" adding "we are going to get through this together."

Livonia's 16th District Court is one of the Metro Detroit municipal buildings that will be closed to the public as the state grapples with the spread of the coronavirus.

"We're taking this unprecedented move to protect our residents and our employees while keeping in line with the strict recommendations that are coming from health professionals and other leaders," she said. 

Brosnan said the restrictions will be in place until April 6 and staff will perform only the most essential services, some by appointment only, until that time. 

Cities and townships are ramping up precautions or opting to close to the public for now after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday imposed the broad statewide closure of eateries, bars and other venues to help fend off exposure to the virus. Vital services like police, fire, public works and water services will remain active for all communities. 

The governor also has signed an order banning public gatherings of more than 50, down from a maximum of 250 people last week. 

In West Bloomfield, Township Supervisor Steven Kaplan posted on the community website on behalf of himself and the township board that officials decided to close down the town hall building to the public beginning Wednesday and until further notice.

"This decision was made mainly to protect the health and welfare of the community members, as well as our township employees," he wrote. "We have utmost confidence that our exceptional staff members will continue to assist the public by telephone, email, and through the secure drop box at the east end of our building."

Departments, Kaplan said, will continue to be staffed during normal hours and online services can be found at Residents also can contact the town hall at (248) 451-4800 or (248) 409-1581. A drop box outside the building can accept non-cash payments, absentee ballots or other documentation. Water bills can be mailed in, paid online or by credit card. 

 "We are striving to assist our residents and businesses to the best of our abilities," Kaplan said.

Westland Mayor William R. Wild meanwhile said Wednesday that the city will close to the public through March 31 and its administrative offices will also shut down as will the Jefferson Barns Community Vitality Center. 

The city previously closed its senior center, ice arena and library. City Hall will remain operational but with limited staff and residents should take advantage of online service offerings and two drop boxes which will be checked daily. Residents can call (734) 467-3200 for more information. 

"Like all other communities facing this unprecedented challenge, we are working to ensure the safety and well-being of members of our community as well as our employees," Wild said in a released statement. 

In Berkley, Mayor Daniel Terbrack declared a local state of emergency for the city. 

The city sent out a notice Tuesday saying its top priority is to keep the community safe and healthy and protect its workers. 

Despite shutting down City Hall, the public works office, community center and library to the public, it is offering online and secure drop box options for paying water bills and other utilities. 

Berkley's senior transportation service are temporarily suspended and parks and recreation-related events or activities previously paid for will be refunded.  

The Coleman A. Young Municipal Center in Detroit remained open Wednesday but with added safety precautions. 

The city hall and court building with more than 1,300 employees and 5,000 visitors daily, is boosting cleaning in common areas, offices and courtrooms, urged visitors and staff to exercise a six-foot proximity radius between one another and is limiting elevator capacity to three people at a time.

The changes, implemented by the Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority, which owns and manages the center, also include changes to employee access and measures to expedite security screenings.

Livonia, like others, already had shuttered its recreation and senior centers, is recommending visits to the city park system, while avoiding play equipment and maintaining a health distance from one another.

The city is directing the public to its website or to cal (734) 466-2200 for questions or assistance. 

Brosnan urged residents to maintain their sense of neighborhood and community spirit. 

"...we can do this, but together is the only way," she said.