The customer service building with a setup to ensure social distancing. (Photo courtesy of Riley Martin)

Ocala Begins Second Phase Of Reopening City Offices

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Part of the first phase of Florida’s reopening came over the past 10 days, as local governments like Ocala’s began to reopen city offices.

Until there is a cure for the coronavirus, those who manage government buildings in Ocala are doing their part to keep both employees and residents safe. City spokeswoman Ashley Dobbs said a methodical approach is being taken in city offices.

“We have hand sanitizer stations set up for use, we have installed UV light into our HVAC and air-conditioning systems, and these lights are known to kill airborne pathogens including those related to COVID,” Dobbs said. “In addition, our staff has been given clean supplies and sanitary sprays.”

These protocols began when the first set of city offices reopened on May 18. These included City Hall, Ocala Electric Utility, Ocala Fire Administration, Ocala Police Department and the city’s customer service center.

June 1 is the scheduled reopening date of remaining closed city offices, which include Community Development Services, Growth Management, Water Resources, Ocala Fiber Network and the Parks and Recreation Administration Office.

Currently, these offices are considered restricted access sites and can be accessed by appointment only and on a first-come, first-served basis.

All open buildings are wiped down daily at what are known as high touchpoints. An antimicrobial spray called DCS-200N is used about once or twice a week in waiting areas and offices. That will continue after June 1.

Plans are to continue screening employees’ temperatures daily, as well as those of residents who go into a city building. All are strongly encouraged to wear masks that cover their nose and mouth, following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Emory Roberts, the director of finance and customer service for the city of Ocala, is pleased with the current sanitation procedures the city has set in place. One of the departments that Roberts oversees is the customer service office, and all municipal services are managed through this department.

Residents wanting to pay municipal service bills or who have questions regarding payments can go to the city’s main customer service lobby, where there are steps to keeping everyone’s visit safe.

“We have spacing outside with chairs and a covered area,” Roberts said. “We are getting about over 100 people a day and sanitizing the counter after every customer.”

While customers may face a wait due to the decision of limiting capacity to ensure social distancing, Rogers said his department is taking numerous sanitary precautions to make customers feel safe. If a customer were to choose to conduct business in person, face masks are provided to those that do not have one and want to carry out CDC guidelines.

“I want the public to know that we are there to help them during this pandemic,” Rogers said. “We encourage them to call us or contact us, because we will work with them to keep their utilities on.”

Rogers admits that this has been a stressful time for him and his staff of 47, but they are well equipped and willing to serve the residents of Ocala in a safe and efficient manner.

If for any reason residents still do not feel comfortable going in person to any city office, all services are still available through customer service representatives, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or online at www.ocalafl.org.

About Melody Ocasio

Melody is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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