New Westminster City Hall is preparing to reopen its doors to drop-in visitors.
Like other civic facilities, city hall closed in March in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. In April, city hall reopened to serve citizens on a by-appointment-only basis for essential services.
“We are very pleased to resume drop-in service at city hall, and I want to thank everyone for their patience and adapting to a new way of conducting business over the past several months,” Mayor Jonathan Cote said in a news release. “Staff have been working very hard to reopen city hall and ensure all modifications and protocols are in place to keep everyone safe.”
The city will resume drop-in front counter service starting Wednesday, Sept. 23. Drop-in services for planning, business licensing, building and plumbing, engineering, utilities and finance will be available on the main floor of city hall from Monday to Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
The city strongly encourages people to wear a mask when visiting city hall – and to stay home if they feel unwell.
In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID, the city has introduced some new safety measures such as enhanced cleaning and disinfection, installation of Plexiglas barriers at all front counters, space modifications, and revised circulation patterns to ensure physical distancing.
“All visitors must enter and exit by the rear entrance, and all drop-in visitors must check in with the attendant immediately after entering,” said the press release. “There will be limits on how many customers can occupy the building at one time and everyone will be required to maintain physical distancing.”
While drop-in service is available, the city is encouraging the public to continue to pre-book appointments by using the city’s new online appointment booking system that’s being launched on Sept. 23 or by calling 604-521-3711. In addition, services including online payments, permit applications and renewals can be completed using the city’s e-government services available at newwestcity.ca/onlineservices.
“Throughout the pandemic we have successfully offered many services at city hall on an appointment basis,” chief administrative officer Lisa Spitale said in a press release. “Continuing to book appointments in advance will allow us to provide a better customer service experience and serve you more efficiently. We will be able to allocate appropriate time to discuss your specific issue with the right staff members.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, some employees of city hall have been working from home.
Ashleigh Young, the city’s communications officer, said it’s strongly encouraged that people book an appointment in advance if they want to meet with a specific staff member at city hall.
“Each department is developing rotational schedules to have staff rotate between working remotely and on-site at city hall. This is to ensure both appropriate physical distancing amongst staff and that all operational and service requirements are covered,” she said in an email to the Record. “With the rotational schedules, the number of staff in city hall is estimated to be no more than 60% on any given day.”
The city will also resume in-person attendance at council and committee meetings in October, via a reservation system that will ensure the safety of public and staff. Meetings will continue to be live-streamed on the www.newwestcity.ca.