By Mike Genet

After President Trump released the latest CDC recommendation Monday, Independence Mayor Eileen Weir and Jackson County Executive Frank White announced Monday that public gatherings of 10 or more people would be prohibited until March 31.

Restaurants are allowed to provide drive-thru, curbside pick-up and delivery services, but with no inside seating allowed, bars and taverns are closed unless they provide food services. Grocery stores and pharmacies are treated as an exempted business.

Starting Tuesday, the city of Independence will close City Hall and the Independence Utilities Center to the public for about eight weeks, while Blue Springs will close City Hall and the Howard Brown Public Safety Building until April 6 as cities continue to make service changes out of public health precaution.

As of Monday afternoon no coronavirus cases had been confirmed in Jackson County, but several have been confirmed in Johnson County, Kansas, and Weir emphasized that the situation continues to evolve quickly.

“We do now know the full impact we will see from this pandemic,” Weir said.

Both cities asked residents to use drive-thru payment (at the Utilities Center, 17221 E. 23rd St.), drop-off boxes, mail or online or automated phone system payments for utility bills. Blue Springs also announced Monday what Independence did Fridays: no utility shutoffs for nonpayment until further notice.

Independence City Council’s next scheduled meeting would be April 6, and Weir said the city is looking at virtual meeting options, but it would have to assure the public has access. Weir said the city would be testing technology for that with the Public Utilities Advisory Board meeting this week. City staff continues to work, but in split shifts to minimize contact.

Blue Springs canceled public meetings until April 6.

Also in Independence:

• The Palmer Senior Center, Truman Memorial Building, Sermon Community Center, National Frontier Trails Museum, George Owens Nature Park, and Uptown Market are closed to the public through approximately May 15, extending previously announced closings. The historic site openings (Bingham-Waggoner Estate and Vaile Mansion) are also delayed until May 16.

• For animal services, all adoptions, lost and found pet services, meetings with officers and payments for permits will be conducted by appointment only. Call 816-325-7207.

• All food handler/manager classes are canceled until further notice, and all routine restaurant inspections have been suspended until further notice. Citizens should report concerns via the new city app – IndepNow for follow-up.

• Municipal Court has been temporarily postponed until further notice. Court clerks will continue to be available by phone. Payments may be made by U.S. mail or left in the drop box embedded on the wall outside to the left of the lower level doors into City Hall. No cash payments will be accepted. For case updates, check:

• The drop-off depot scheduled for April 11 and the Park Trot 5K scheduled for May 2 have been canceled.

• The Independence Police Department is closing the lobby of police headquarters, 223 N. Memorial Drive. A telephone is available to the public in the vestibule to make police reports, speak with police personnel and request other services. Fingerprinting and watch guard security licensing renewals will be extended through June and will not be renewed until further notice. Traffic crash reports can still be obtained online at Members of the public are encouraged to dial 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency and in a non-emergency that requires police response should call (816) 836-3600.

In Blue Springs:

• The Fieldhouse closed Monday, with a possible reopen date of April 6. Fieldhouse members will be allowed to suspend their membership for the month of April with no penalty, and staff will evaluate any future extension to our suspension policy as needed. Written notice of intent to suspend membership should be provided to the Fieldhouse by March 27. If one chooses to restart your membership prior to May, they will not be charged the application fee and will pay the prorated monthly fee based on the day of restart.

• Vesper Hall will be closed beginning Monday for three weeks, though senior home meal delivery service will continue.

• Adams Pointe Golf Course will continue to remain open for play only, but the banquet facility will not be open.

Among other area closures:

• The city of Grain Valley.

• Silverstein Eye Centers Arena and the adjacent Independence Community Ice rink are closed for public events through May 15.

• The Missouri Department of Conservation canceled most public events and programs at all nature centers and other locations around the state, including Burr Oak Woods Nature Center in Blue Springs, until April 15. Department-scheduled hunts, mentored spring turkey hunts, and native plant sales at nature centers will continue as planned. All conservation areas remain open to the public, and all MDC offices, nature centers, and shooting ranges also remain open under normal operating hours.