Fairbanks City Hall

The Patrick B. Cole City Hall sign is seen Wednesday, June 17, 2020, in downtown Fairbanks. Caitlin Miller/News-Miner

A recent increase in local COVID-19 case numbers has prompted officials in the cities of Fairbanks and North Pole to decide to close their administrative offices to walk-in visitors.

North Pole City Hall is being locked up starting Thursday. Mayor Mike Welch said access will be granted on a case-by-case basis for people who come to City Hall and ring the doorbell. Visitors can also call 488-2281 for an appointment.

No North Pole city employee has tested positive for coronavirus, he said.

“We haven’t had an outbreak, and I am trying to prevent it,” Welch said.

Welch said that in general he is seeing large groups of people congregating in both cities along with too few people wearing masks.

“I am witnessing a more cavalier attitude,” Welch said. “It puts us all at risk.”

In Fairbanks, the Patrick B. Cole City Hall building will be locked starting Monday, according to Teal Soden, city communications director.

“It’s mostly because of the spike in cases and the mayor’s concern for employee safety,” she said.

Services at both cities will continue similar to how business was conducted during the statewide shutdown last spring with residents asked to contact city workers by phone, internet or by appointment.

Both cities have a mask requirement in place for visitors.

The North Pole mayor said a recent COVID-19 outbreak at the Juanita Helms Borough Administration Center, which has been closed to walk-in traffic since March, concerned him and factored into his decision to shut down his city’s main offices.

Over the weekend, the borough announced that five employees had tested positive for COVID-19.

A deep clean of areas of the Helms building is complete, according to borough information officer Lanien Livingston. But the employee parking lot at the building was partially empty on Tuesday, and Livingston said “many employees are working from home.”

Soden said most visitors to Fairbanks City Hall come for business with the clerk’s office or the Building Department. Those offices can be reached at 459-6702 and 459-6720 respectively to make an appointment.

“People should not see any kind of interruption in services,” she said. “Everybody is still going to be working. Our phones will still be manned.”

Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7545. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough.