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Platte County Courthouse under restricted access protocol
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Platte County Courthouse under restricted access protocol

Residents will have limited access to the Platte County Courthouse for the foreseeable future.

Platte County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jerry Engdahl made the announcement about the temporary protocol that took effect late last week. He and Sheriff Ed Wemhoff noted restricting access to the building was about being proactive regarding the growing concern over COVID-19 spreading across the nation and Nebraska.

“We just felt like it’s time to admit that things could get bleak, and we have to protect our employees, we have to protect our public,” Engdahl said. “The whole world isn’t stopping, but we wanted to stop excess traffic.”

Access is limited, but the courthouse isn’t closed. Platte County offices will remain staffed if and when possible, and will be available to the public for necessary services, the sheriff noted. Wemhoff said if one has business to conduct at the courthouse, he or she should call the office they need to visit and schedule an appointment before coming to the building (phone numbers for each office can be found on the Platte County Nebraska website).

“If you need to drop off an item for any Platte County office, you can do so in the Platte County Treasurers drop box,” Wemhoff said. “The drop box is located directly outside and to the south of the courthouse entrance doors.”

The State of Nebraska is also trying to help with people going out and about, as Gov. Pete Ricketts late last week issued an executive order to increase flexibility in requirements for state residents relating to driver licensing and vehicle registration requirements. The governor extended driver licenses and vehicle registrations expiring on or after March 1st. The extension will remain in effect until 30 days after the order is lifted.

Driver Licenses or State IDs – The extension will apply to all driver licenses, state identification cards, permits, or other credential issued by the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles. Customers will still be able to renew credentials online; however, the aim is to reduce the number of individuals requiring in-person assistance. This step will assist with social distancing and reduce the need for people to travel to driver licensing offices.

Vehicle Titling & Registrations – Any vehicle title requirements, registrations, in-transit tags, or motor carrier temporary documents due to expire on or after March 1st will be extended until 30 days after this executive order is lifted.

IFTA requirements – Any Nebraska penalties or interest associated with late filing of quarterly returns for members of the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) will be waived.

Ignition Interlock Providers – Monthly inspection and reporting requirements under the ignition interlock program will be provided a two-week extension period for all existing interlock customers. Additional extensions may be available, as determined on a case-by-case basis.

The Courthouse, 2610 14th St. in Columbus, is ordinarily open from 8 am.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Court is still going on and the building itself, including the sheriff’s office, remains open for business. Wemhoff stressed the request to call ahead and limiting the number of people inside was just about keeping everybody as safe and healthy as possible.

“We’re not pushing anybody away,” he assured, noting a man had recently called his office about getting a carry permit and was able to do so. “We’re just asking people to contact any office they have to do business with and inquire about getting some stuff beforehand … We’re still here.”

Platte County officials intend to reevaluate the situation continually, and as soon as it is apparent that things can go back to business as usual, that information will be shared, the sheriff noted.

“It is our hope that as this pandemic transitions through its stages, we will be able to readjust our availability to the public, once again allowing them back into the courthouse,” Wemhoff said. “We hope this occurs sooner than later.”

Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at matt.lindberg@lee.net.

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Managing Editor

Matt Lindberg is an award-winning journalist and graduate of the University of Kansas.

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