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Baltimore to restore access to public areas of city government buildings, but meetings to remain virtual

Baltimore will reopen areas of several city government buildings to the public starting Aug. 15 as the coronavirus pandemic abates, although city meetings will continue to be held virtually, Democratic Mayor Brandon Scott said.

City buildings, including City Hall and numerous other office buildings, have been closed since early 2020 due to the pandemic. A memo to city staff last week from City Administrator Christopher Shorter said that as in-person services are restored, masks will still be required for everyone in city buildings.

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Among those slated to reopen first are:

  • Permit and inspection services offered by the Department of Housing and Community Development;
  • Payment windows operated by the Department of Finance;
  • The Department of Public Works walk-in customer service center and its meter shop;
  • Liquor License Board license pickups, payments, document drop-offs and in-person hearings;
  • Mayor’s Office of Employment Development one-stop career centers and youth opportunity center;
  • Events at the Baltimore Convention Center;
  • Park ambassadors, Carrie Murray Nature Center and therapeutic recreation;
  • Baltimore City Fire Department CPR training and emergency medical service ride-alongs for students;
  • 48-hour and peak-hour parking enforcement, as well as traffic calming studies and towing to the Fallsway Facility provided by the Department of Transportation;
  • Minority Business Enterprise and Women Business Enterprise applications.

The services due to be restored are offered in various buildings, including City Hall, the Charles L. Benton Jr. Building, the Abel Wolman Municipal Building and the Arena Garage. However, city officials stopped short of saying they’ll reopen those buildings entirely.

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Scott said Wednesday that officials are weighing how to keep virtual access to meetings, which he said has increased participation. City Council and the Board of Estimates have met virtually for more than a year.

“This is about making sure we put in place everything that’s as safe as possible for our workers, for the people who are visiting, the folks that are coming to do business at city buildings,” Scott said.

“We have to consider how to keep those individuals who simply can’t take off at 9 in the morning but can listen on their phones,” he said.

Asked whether the city has legal authority to continue holding virtual meetings without a state of emergency in place, Scott said he will consult with city attorneys.

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“We’ll make sure we follow all the rules,” Scott said.

Government buildings across the region have begun to reopen while Baltimore’s facilities have remained closed. The State House in Annapolis opened May 21 to visitors. Maryland courts resumed full operations, including jury trials, in April, and city libraries began to reopen in March. Anne Arundel County buildings are slated to reopen July 19.

Most of Baltimore’s remaining coronavirus-related restrictions lifted Thursday when Maryland’s state of emergency expired.

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