The lobbies of Hopkins County Courthouse Annex, which houses the Justices of the Peace (JPs) and Tax Offices, officially reopened its doors for in-person visits for county residents on Wednesday, May 13.
Justices of the Peace Offices
The portion of the Jefferson Street annex which houses the Justices of the Peace and Constable’s offices had modifications and upgrades during the closures. Those visiting will notice new glass between the clerk’s desks and the public, creating a foyer waiting area. This will better help protect both citizens and staff. People will slide any paperwork through one of the two designated window slots.
The office also got a facelift with carpeting replaced and new paint. A few water leaks were also addressed during the closure.
A table in the hallway in front of the JPs’ offices contains several folders to make frequently requested forms more accessible and a bulletin board with important notices. Precinct 2 JP Brad Cummings said they hope to be able to eventually place a computer int he foyer area, which would allow visitors to complete the paperwork electronically, reducing the need for them to print and return the paper form, then for the information to have to be typed into the system.
While the Justice of the Peace offices are open for walk-in customers, social distancing and the use of proper personal protective equipment is encouraged while during the pandemic.
The judges ask visitors to be mindful of personal space as well as their own health. Anyone who has had a recent fever, shortness of breath, body aches, a cough of any sort, or other symptoms or signs of influenza, COVID-19, or other illnesses are asked to stay home and not enter the Courthouse Annex. The general public is asked to also be mindful of the social distancing rule of keeping at least a 6 feet of space between themselves and others while at their offices.
Based on Texas Supreme Court Orders and advisement from the Office of Court Administration, courts will not schedule any non-essential court hearings until after June 1st. The JP courts will accept filings, but cases will not be scheduled and the constables will not serve any papers that pertain to non-essential hearings until after June 1, according to Judge Cummings.
June 1 is currently a tentative restart date, pending further direction from the Texas Supreme Court and Office of Court Administration.
Tax Assessor/Collector’s Office
The Tax Assessor/Collector’s Office also made the decision to reopen May 13 to county residents, although that office has not been outfitted with protective glass.
Tables were placed longways in front of the front counters, to observe proper social distancing guidelines and as an added layer of protection for staff and citizens.
Those entering the building for either the JPs or Tax Assessor’s offices will notice the front entry way has been modified. The front entry foyer has been removed. The front entrance at the glass door is also more easily accessible.
The office, which also handles vehicle registration, reportedly had steady business all day.
Hopkins County Clerk’s Office and the District Clerk’s Office lobbies remain closed except by appointment, pending modifications as well. The offices are fully staffed and operating. Calls will be taken and emails answered. The district clerks are monitoring the Efile system daily as well as emails, but passports aren’t being processed at this time. Certain services at the county clerk’s office are available by appointment.
“The County Clerk is getting a new cabinet for the front of that office. It’s scheduled to be installed on Friday. We are waiting on the glass for that. We should have movement on that next week, and have it opened hopefully soon. The District Clerk also is going to be along the same timeline. We are wait on glass there too,” said Hopkins County Judge Robert Newsom.
Adult Probation/Other Offices
The Adult Probation office on Hinnant Street has been conducing a lot of remote reporting and telephone reporting, with limited in-person reporting. That office is currently expected to be fully reopened on June 1, according to Newsom.
“We should be fully functioning as county before on June 1 or the very latest,” the judge said.