City utility billing office closed due to COVID-19

Published 6:29 pm Tuesday, January 12, 2021

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The city of Franklin’s utility billing department is currently closed and will remain so through at least Jan. 19 due to COVID-19 exposure among employees.

City Manager Amanda Jarratt didn’t specify whether any of that department’s employees have actually tested positive for the disease, or if they are merely in quarantine following close contact with an infected individual.

“I am not at liberty to share information that may violate an employee’s privacy,” she said.

During the Jan. 11 City Council meeting, Mayor Frank Rabil referred to an “outbreak” of COVID-19 as the reason the city would not be recognizing its employee of the year for 2020 and star performers for December that evening, as had been listed on the agenda.

“We will do that at our next regular scheduled meeting if everything is better,” Rabil said.

But according to Jarratt, this was in reference “to the increase in numbers overall in the community and a gathering of a large crowd.”

The Virginia Department of Health, in most cases, defines “outbreak” to mean two or more cases tied to the same workplace. As of Jan. 12, the Western Tidewater Health District — which includes Franklin, Suffolk and the counties of Southampton and Isle of Wight — was reporting a cumulative 26 outbreaks since the pandemic began: 14 in long-term care facilities, six in congregate settings, four in correctional facilities, one in a health care setting and one in a child care setting. The figures are unchanged from a week ago, Jan. 7.

Franklin alone has had a cumulative 720 cases, 37 hospitalizations and 18 deaths. With a population of just under 8,000 according to 2019 U.S. Census estimates, that equates to roughly one in every 11 city residents having had COVID-19.

“Two employees are trying to work from home,” Jarratt said, advising those who need a new utility connection, service transfer or disconnection to call the city treasurer’s office at 757-562-8536.