Lockhart City facilities remain closed to public
By Kristen Meriwether, Editor LPR
The City of Lockhart extended the closure of all indoor city facilities to walk-in traffic. The city originally closed indoor facilities from Jan. 1 through Jan. 15, but the extension was made on the 15th. A reopen date has not been given.
The changes continue to effect City Hall, The Dr. Eugene Clark Library, and the Municipal Court. Utility payments can be made online—which include a fee—or via the drop box, appointments must be made with Developmental Services representatives, and grab-n-go services, as well as access to the technology center at the library continues to be suspended.
When facilities originally closed Dec. 30, 2020 the reason given was, “to help ensure COVID-19 cases remain low among staff and in the entire community.”
The topic of closing public facilities was not discussed publicly at the last City Council meeting of the year, held on Dec. 15, 2020. The order was not discussed publicly at the Jan. 4 City Council, four days after it went into effect.
The reason for extending the closure was, “due to the number of COVID-19 inpatient cases in hospitals in Caldwell County’s region,” according to a Jan. 15 release. It was not discussed at the Jan. 19 City Council meeting.
Caldwell County is in Trauma Service Area (TSA) O which includes, Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, Llano, San Saba, Travis, and Williamson counties. The governor signed an order in October that said once hospital capacity reaches 15-percent in any TSA, bars have to close, restaurants have to reduce capacity to 50-percent, and hospitals close to elective surgery.
Nothing in that order mentions the closing of public buildings or municipal facilities. Municipalities do, however, have the right to make those decisions without outside input.
TSA O hit that capacity on Jan. 10, and Caldwell County Judge Hoppy Haden was forced to issue the order closing the bars and reducing restaurant capacity to 50-percent on Jan. 13. Nothing in Judge Haden or the state’s letter mentioned a recommendation for closing municipal facilities. To date Caldwell County facilities remain open to the public.
When asked about why the City of Lockhart made the decision without public input, a spokesperson for the city said this had been done earlier in the pandemic, when the city closed for over two months over the summer when cases began to rise. They also referred to other cities in the region, such as San Marcos, who have made similar decisions.
“The City manager and several department heads meet multiple times per week to discuss developments in the COVID-19 pandemic and how they affect Lockhart,” the spokesperson said. “City management made the determination to close the city’s facilities to walk-in traffic in an effort to improve safety for the public and city staff.”