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Okaloosa to reopen offices, burn ban in effect

Tony Judnich
tjudnich@nwfdailynews.com
Northwest Florida Daily News

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SHALIMAR — Various Okaloosa County offices and services will reopen Wednesday and Monday.

On Wednesday, most county office public lobbies, tourism visitor centers and drive-thrus will reopen. And on Monday, the county Water and Sewer Department’s public lobbies will reopen and the county’s mass transit system known as EC Rider will resume with normal routes, fees and services.

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The County Commission unanimously approved those and other changes Tuesday.

Various county facilities and services were closed or made unavailable to the public in March as a way to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

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In response to a question from Commissioner Nathan Boyles on Tuesday, Deputy County Administrator of Operations Craig Coffey confirmed that staff has implemented safety precautions throughout the county. These include the placement of Plexiglas panels in facilities where staff interacts with the public.

In addition to offices and services returning to normal hours, county boards, councils and committees can resume their normal meeting schedules starting Wednesday.

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Various safety measures will remain in place. For example, until further notice, the capacity of county lobbies, buses and in-person meeting sizes will be limited to 25%.

County staff will wear masks during close interactions with the public, masks will be available for all bus passengers, the use of virtual meetings will continue as much as possible and events at the Emerald Coast Convention Center will remain suspended.

In other business Tuesday, the commission approved a seven-day ban on various outdoor burning activities in the county, effective immediately, because of the ongoing extremely dry weather conditions and high fire danger.

The ban prohibits all outdoor open-flame burning, such as the burning of trash and yard debris. Exceptions are state-authorized burns, firefighter training activities and the cooking of food within a contained gas or charcoal grill.

Anyone who violates the ban could be fined up to $500 and/or be jailed for up to 60 days.