City plans to ease into facility reopening

Published 6:39 pm Thursday, June 4, 2020

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After months of being closed to the public, the City of Washington is making preparations to gradually reopen some of its facilities to residents next week. Washington City Manager Jonathan Russell says the city has had to reevaluate its plans after other local governments have experienced outbreaks of COVID-19.

“We were really geared up to open, but the Health Department in Pitt County this past week had a staff member that was positive (for COVID-19),” Russell said. “They had to quarantine a whole department for 14 days, so that shut down that function for two weeks.”

To avoid a similar situation in Washington, certain city facilities will start to open next week on a limited basis, including City Hall.

“At the main City Hall building, we will continue to exercise precautions, but I think we are going to open on some of the parameters on coming into the building for the public,” Russell said. “It will be for very limited things, like dealing with utilities and building permits.”

Even so, visitors to City Hall will be limited to 10 people or fewer at a time, and additional cleaning protocols will be in place. Though those services will be available in person, the City is still encouraging residents to conduct business over the phone and pay bills via drop box or online when possible.

In addition to City Hall, the following city facilities will open starting next week:

  • Moore Aquatic and Fitness Center will open next week at a limited capacity. The gym area, however, will remain closed.
  • Most parks in the city are currently open, and the dog park on the corner of Fourth and Brown streets will open next week. Public playgrounds, however, remain closed by executive order during Phase II of the state’s reopening plan.
  • Starting June 8, Brown Library will begin a curbside circulation service, allowing patrons to check out and return books in front of the building. The library will announce more details of that service next week.
  • Some parks and rec facilities will open June 15 for league practices.

Russell said the City was in contact with the Beaufort County Health Department and taking some cues from other municipalities as it works through reopening facilities.

“In our service delivery right now, we’re confident we’re performing at a pretty high level,” Russell said. “We don’t know that the reward is worth the risk at this time, where we could potentially shut down services that we’re providing at 80-90% capacity.”

Though the city had hoped to have a new License Plate Agency open for Beaufort County by the end of April, the N.C. Department of Transportation has delayed the trainings necessary to get that office up and running, due to COVID-19. Most of those services are still available online at, and the state has granted a five-month extension for registration renewals that expire between March 1 and Aug. 1.

“We don’t know when the trainings can take place, so we have kind of tabled the issue until we get some type of clarification on that,” Russell said. “We don’t think it would be wise to rent a space or renovate a space until we have a little more clarification.”

For more information on City of Washington services and facilities, visit