A number of cities in the Hamilton and Niagara area that closed municipal facilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic have reopened or are slowly reopening in-person services. Four of the larger regional city halls have plans in place to accept visitors as of this past week.
City managers are alerting the public that there will be lineups since each facility will have maximum capacities and coronavirus screenings upon entry.
Here’s what to expect city by city:
Hamilton’s city hall will open to the public on the first and second floors only starting on Monday, July 20 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday.
The opening provides access to the service counters and some access to councillors and the mayor on the second floor. Floors 3 through 8 will remain closed to the public.
Greeters will meet the public upon entry to city hall to provide mandatory screening and will also be managing lineups. The maximum capacity for public visitors will be 40 people.
Masks and face coverings are required unless exempted from by the mandatory mask bylaw. Residents are asked to bring and wear their own masks.
The entrance on the second floor from the parking lot will be closed to the public.
Drop-in visitors can complete tax payments, marriage licences, animal licences and parking fees.
Consultations with city clerks for commissioning, foreign pension inquiries and lobbyist registration will be by appointment only.
All planning and building services consultations will still not available on Monday, however, limited pickup and drop-off services will be available.
The Service Burlington counter on Brant Street will open for in-person visits on Monday, July 20 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday to Friday.
Drop-in visits will be allowed for paying parking permits and tickets, paying property taxes, making freedom of information requests, picking up garbage tags, obtaining dog licences, making property information requests and inquiring about recreation services.
Marriage licences and commissioning services will be by appointment only.
Masks and face coverings will be required unless exempted from by the mandatory mask bylaw. Residents are asked to bring and wear their own masks.
On Wednesday, the City of Niagara Falls reopened city hall to select services by appointment only. Hours will be Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Some of the services that can be accessed in-person include building permit applications, marriage licences, business licences, commissioning of documents and affidavits, zoning approvals, and development applications.
Greeters are at all main entrance doors, and customers will have to go through COVID-19 screenings. The lobby will have limited capacity, and lineups should be expected.
City staff recommend those with appointments arrive 10 minutes in advance.
Service counters will have enhanced health and safety precautions, including glass barriers at customer service counters, floor markings to support physical distancing requirements of two metres, and hand hygiene stations.
The city strongly recommends that the public wear masks where physical distancing is not possible.
Managers are asking the public to consider alternative online and virtual methods for connecting with city services and staff where possible.
Many services can also be paid for through the city’s website. Taxes can be paid through your bank or by mail.
All facilities in St Catharines are still closed, including city hall.
Brantford city hall is open Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Most regular in-person services are available, including payments for taxes, entertainment licences, marriage licences and dog designations.
Building permit payments, as well as planning commissioning, will be available beginning on Monday, July 20.
Some other services, including permits for driveways, site alterations and street excavations, will come online on Aug. 5.
Brantford has a mandatory face-covering bylaw. Visitors will be required to wear a mask while at city hall until further notice.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.