MILFORD — On Monday, March 23, Milford Town Council entered into what President Doug Ruch called “uncharted waters” with an emergency session held by conference call to vote on measures responding to state Gov. Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home order issued earlier the same day.
The council voted to stop utility disconnections and suspend penalties from unpaid bills from March 19 until further notice. A pandemic/public health emergency leave policy was also approved.
Council members were joined on the call by department heads, local media and Jay Rigdon, town attorney, who drafted declarations governing town operations in the coming weeks.
The first motion takes the following actions:
Town Clerk-Treasurer Tricia Gall was given permission to modify hours of the town hall or her own hours as needed.
The clerk-treasurer may conduct all routine financial transactions without prior approval, such as salary and bond payments; however, should a question arise, she shall make individual inquiry of members, and if a majority are not in agreement, the claim will remain unpaid pending future action.
The April council meeting is cancelled. Future meetings may be scheduled if the council president deems they do not pose a risk.
Any other steps to conduct minimally required town business may be taken by Gall, who must notify council members of such actions.
Ruch will investigate modifications allowing for meetings by electronic methods or allow for public access and sharing of information.
Council then voted to pass a pandemic and public health emergency leave policy for employees. It stipulates town employees must stay home if they have tested positive for COVID-19, show symptoms of the virus or been in contact with someone who shows symptoms. If an employee has been in a high-risk location as identified by CDC they must also stay home. They may not return to work until determined by a health professional to not present a risk to others.
While on leave, employees will receive normal compensation based on their average hours worked per week or normal salary.
If town facilities are closed, employees will receive their normal compensation. Department heads may determine if an arrangement to work remotely from home is possible.
Regardless of if facilities remain open, employees of advanced age or compromised immune symptoms may receive normal compensation.
Employees may use emergency leave to care for a child whose school has been closed. Parents of symptomatic children and are in self-quarantine may also take leave.
Employees are expected to maintain behavior in keeping with CDC guidelines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Police are deemed essential, and they may engage the public by telephone when possible. Fingerprinting and education duties are suspended to protect the public and officers from unnecessary exposure.
Essential employees will be decided on a case by case basis.
“We will take care of our people no matter what, basically,” said Ruch.
The council also voted to postpone the planned spring clean-up set for April 16-18.
The town will also stop disconnections for unpaid water and wastewater bills and stop penalties on late fees from March 19 until the event subsides.
At Ruch’s suggestion, the council will also be paid on a quarterly basis instead of twice per year. This may require a change in the salary ordinance, however, Rigdon commented, “The State Board of Accounts will give flexibility.”
In response to Superintendent Steven Marquart’s question as to when employees’ work time would be eliminated, the consensus was all would remain in place unless the situation worsens. “It’s ok to keep working,” said Rigdon, explaining town employees were part of essential services as explained by the governor’s declaration.