City of Thomasville operations such as Thomasville Police Department (TPD), Thomasville Fire Rescue (TFR) and Utilities services including Water, Electric, Natural Gas, Public Works, Solid Waste, Wastewater and CNSNext are all essential services that our community depends upon for consistent, reliable service. Throughout the global COVID-19 pandemic, City of Thomasville staff members have continued to serve our community, citizens and customers, although some operations have been slightly altered due to health and safety concerns. While the methods under which City services are delivered may be temporarily different, Team Thomasville members have continued striving to provide the best service possible under these unprecedented conditions.
“From the beginning, we implemented new protocols that allow our team to maintain operational procedures that allow us to continue serving our community while also complying with necessary social distancing guidelines,” said Alan Carson, City of Thomasville City Manager. “Our goal has always been to deliver outstanding service that exceeds expectations, but we faced a challenge in how do to that while maintaining the protection of our essential workforce as a top concern. Closing our facilities to the public was not ideal, but our staff found creative ways using existing resources to meet the needs of our customers. I’m very proud of Team Thomasville and how they have truly risen to the challenges we have faced.”
Across all City departments, implementation of the recommended guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and other public health agencies for slowing the spread of the virus became the new normal. Daily routines changed as City staff members observed the recommended guidelines and included new procedures, such as implementing enhanced sanitizing efforts, monitoring body temperatures, and using personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves. “We also cancelled all travel for City staff, converted to virtual meetings and training sessions, and observed an escalated emphasis on social distancing at all times,” said Carson. “Many of our departments with large groups of employees such as our electric linemen, solid waste and CNSNext technicians have also adapted by holding team meetings in outdoor areas to allow for proper social distancing.”
Public safety departments, including TPD and TFR, implemented new guidelines for responding to calls in effort to protect staff members and citizens. “We are asking all of our citizens to call our non-emergency number when possible to report minor crime incidents such as lost property, petty theft or crimes that have already occurred,” said Thomasville Police Major Wade Glover. “Police officers are communicating by phone prior to responding in order to assess whether or not response to the residence is necessary. For the necessary residential or emergency responses, we have implemented front porch interviews while protecting our officers with the necessary personal protection equipment (PPE).”
According to Mark Sealy, Thomasville Fire Rescue Deputy Chief, the TFR made many adjustments to their daily protocol. “We consider all calls a positive case until proven otherwise, allowing us to protect our personnel by arriving in PPE,” said Sealy. “In addition to response protocol, we implemented a mandate for our personnel to shower before leaving the building at the conclusion of their shift.” Although the City temporarily suspended entry to homes for many of its services, Sealy said that TFR must continue to enter homes. “We must enter homes for rescue operations. In addition, we felt it was necessary to continue our Smoke Alarm installation program. Our firefighters must continue performing essential duties, but we now do so with enhanced protection in place.”
City of Thomasville Utilities was another essential area that found itself seeking answers to the question of how to best protect its employees and customers alike. “There remains a need to perform certain tasks for our customers such as when customers are smelling gas at their homes,” said Chris White, Executive Director of Public Utilities. “Our utilities staff have been required to wear their PPE before entering any business or residence, and entering those locations is only permitted when it is a matter of safety. We’ve implemented outside-the-premises assistance for CNSNext service calls and worked to troubleshoot issues as much as we can remotely.” White said that Solid Waste services have been impacted by the coronavirus, with the suspension of both backdoor collection and the recycling program. “In both of these cases, the decision to alter our services was due to the risk of cross contamination. We’ve all worked together for a smooth transition, and we are very appreciative of the community’s patience.”
White said that the Water Department has also played an essential role for the community and for areas where frontline medical services are provided. “Clean water throughout our community is a necessity to fight this virus,” said White. “Throughout the last month, we have heightened our testing frequency, especially around areas such as Archbold Memorial Hospital and nursing homes where frontline medical care workers need a clean water supply.”
Precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic has also impacted Customer Service operations. “We traditionally have a large percentage of our customers who prefer to do business with us in person by visiting our Administrative Building,” said Carson. “We’ve been able to continue serving customers utilizing our online presence, and we have continued to accept payments online, by telephone and using our drive-thru and drop-box options.” Carson also said that staff members have worked with customers who wish to make adjustments to their services. “Even during a pandemic, customers need to make changes to their accounts. We’ve worked creatively with our customers to meet their needs, even when our traditional methods aren’t available to us.”
“The health and well-being of our citizens, customers and employees is our number one priority,” said Carson. “COVID-19 made it necessary to implement precautions that allowed essential city operations to function while providing the excellent customer service that the community deserves and has come to expect from Team Thomasville. It is the work of our staff together with a united community that will help us overcome the challenges we are facing both now and in the days ahead as we approach recovery.”
The City of Thomasville has established a special page on Thomasville.org dedicated to the City’s COVID-19 response. Additional information will be shared on the City’s social media sites and CNSNext Channel 6. For more information visit Thomasville.org or call 229-227-7001.