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County closes public Libraries, other facilities

Gaston County continues to respond to COVID-19, announcing today it is closing all 10 branches of its public library system for at least the next two weeks.

County leaders are evaluating needs on a day-by day basis and will have a decision made by the end of the month whether those closures will need to be extended.

The closure order went into effect on Tuesday, March 17. Also included in the closure order is the Gaston Senior Center in Dallas, the Gaston County Museum in Dallas, the North Carolina Cooperative Extension – Gaston County Center in Dallas and the Gaston County Travel and Tourism Center in Belmont. In addition, Gaston County’s Veterans Services Office is closed to in-person appointments, but is still offering services telephonically.

The order is part of the County’s goal of limiting large gatherings after Chairman Tracy Philbeck issued a State of Emergency on Sunday limiting gatherings to no greater than 50 people.

The Board of Commissioners are playing their part as well. They are canceling work sessions during the months of April and May. Clerk to the Board Donna Buff is working to reschedule any non-essential items that would cause large crowds for the meetings that will need to take place.

Additionally, public zoning meetings will be delayed until May 26th. For the Board of Commissioners meetings that will still happen over the next six weeks the County will limit the total number of persons inside the commissioners meeting room to no more than 50. Two rooms are available elsewhere inside the Gaston County Courthouse, where the board meets, for any overflow crowds to be able to watch the meeting via livestream on television.

Advisory boards will delay meetings until May at the earliest unless absolutely necessary.

On March 16, Gaston County manager Dr. Kim Eagle led a teleconference of municipal leaders and community partners to discuss response to COVID-19. Many municipalities, including Gastonia, Lowell and Ranlo, mentioned they have halted water-service turn-offs during this crisis. The cities and towns of Gaston County have worked in close coordination with County leadership to ensure the safety of their citizens and a consistent message.

Also on March 16, Chairman Philbeck announced the formation of a faith-based task force, to communicate with various congregations across the county during the coronavirus threat.

He’s asked Venture Lead Pastor Austin Rammell and Friendship Baptist Church Bishop John McCullough II to co-chair the task force, which will be critical in reaching out to Gaston County’s faith-based community.

Pastor Rammell spoke at a press conference March 16, pleading with other pastors to be responsible in the shepherding of their congregations and to heed the advice of health professionals. Rammell also brought to the table concerns about gatherings such as weddings and funerals for the 50-person gathering restriction, which the county has currently under discussion.