The Bucks County Court system is planning to re-open on June 1, officials said Friday.
Bucks County Court Administrator, Stephen G. Heckman, in communications to the courts and personnel said that the final details of the reopening plan would be discussed during the last week of May through of series of meetings and video conference calls in documents previously obtained by Lower Bucks Source would be implemented (see outlined plan below).
On Friday, Heckman said the plan is still a work in progress that would be reevaluated continuously but the court will open Monday morning at 8:30 a.m.
7th District Judicial Courts were shutdown March 19 officially closing to the public except for “essential functions” such as emergency bail reviews, any pleading or motion related to public health concerns involving immediate and irreparable harm and temporary protection from abuse hearings, in an order signed by President Judge Wallace H. Batemen, Jr.
The plan for reopening the Justice Center and District Courts to the public includes visitors and employees wearing safety masks in all common areas, maintaining social distancing and complying with all safety directives issued by the court as per established guidelines since Governor Wolf’s initial emergency declaration in March.
Specific to the Justice Center, protocols with the establishment of checkpoints and flow of foot traffic in and around the courthouse were in the final stages of being worked during this past week.
The suggested plan outlines that tents will be used to process visitors and employees through separate entrances.
For Travelways to the Main Entrance:
A Security Officer will be stationed on Union Street at the public parking garage. Security Officers will ask civilians and County employees if they are taking the shuttle. Those indicating that they are taking the shuttle will be directed to the shuttle pick up area. The Security Officer will inform the general public and County employees on the process for entering the Justice Center and what personal protection (example: mask) is required to enter the Justice Center. The Officer will make the public aware that surgical masks will be made available at the tents at the entrance to the stairs and ramp.
- The Justice Center surface lot (next to the secure lot) will be for County employees only. Once the lot is full, General Services will post lot full signs to prevent additional vehicles from entering the lot. The Shuttle service will continue
- Two tents will be at the base of the stairs and ramp with stationed Security Officers will be stationed at the tents to ensure that social distancing is being maintained and masks are worn.
- Security Officers will provide surgical masks for those who arrive without face masks at the two tents at the base of the stairs and ramp.
The Security Officers will issue clear plastic bags to each visitor instructing each person to place their belongings into the plastic bags for scanning purposes and preventing potential for contamination of the plastic containers.
There will be another tent in front of the main entrance for those individuals arriving by shuttle or coming from Main Street with officers assigned who will also have masks and clear plastic bags for civilians.
The Security Officers at the top and bottom of the stairs and ramp will control pedestrian traffic. When direction changes are required for persons exiting the Justice Center, the Security Officers will stop the flow of pedestrian traffic towards the entrance on the stairway or ramp being used by the person exiting the Justice Center until that person is clear of the stairs and or ramp.
There will be a tent at the smoking area outside the Justice Center to provide additional social distancing space.
Heckman suggested those coming to the court allow for time to navigate through check points in and around the Justice Center. He also said that minimizing the amount of items people might be carrying is recommended as to help maintain the foot traffic flow.
The public should bring as few people as possible with them to the court in order to ease potential for crowding as social distancing will still be expected.
Jury Trials, he said, are tentatively scheduled to begin in August but that could change depending on circumstances with some non-jury trials taking place dependent on the judge involved and the number of participants.
Below is the plan that was sent to Lower Bucks Source, and according to officials remains in place for Monday when the doors courthouse opens to the public since they were shutdown in March.
Main Entrance Security Procedures:
Sheriff’s Deputies manning the main entrance security detail will permit persons to enter each civilian property and scanner line. General Services will place markings on the floor for social distancing.
The number of persons waiting to complete the scanning line inside the Justice Center will depend on the available social distancing space at the entrance. General Services will create a zigzag pattern in the main entrance to the Justice Center to maximize the number of persons waiting to be processed through the scanners inside the main entrance. Belts will not be removed and placed in the bag until the subject is at the magnetometer.
It is recommended that disposable plastic liners (small trash can liners General Services has in stock) be placed in each container before use than discarded after each use. This will prevent the need to take the plastic containers out of service to decontaminate them after each use.
Upon successfully passing through the magnetometer, individuals will remove their plastic bag from the bin and move to small tables located beyond check points to gather their belongings and put on their belts. There will be trash containers for the plastic bags.
General Services will have disinfectant spray available at the main entrance in the event a plastic container needs to be sanitized.
County employees with ID’s and masks will be allowed to use the 24/7 side entrance. An Officer/Deputy will be stationed at the door to control access. The employee magnetometer will be moved to the side entrance to the Justice Center (near the ATM) for County employees to also enter the Justice Center.
There will be a table close to the scanner to permit Deputies to search belongings entering the Justice Center. There will be a rope line separating public entrance from the employee path. Office and or Department heads are requested to instruct their employees to bring the minimum number of items with them to carry out their duties for the day. This will eliminate delays at the employee entrance, the memorandum says.
All county employees were offered the option of being tested recently before many of them return to their offices after working remotely from home during the shutdown.