WARSAW — Kosciusko County Commissioners reviewed and approved an ordinance adopting an amended Health Pandemic Emergency Closing policy at a lengthy special meeting held Wednesday, March 25.
Commissioners approved the change in policy at a meeting March 17, which ensured that county employees would be paid for scheduled work in the event of an emergency closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The policy stated that essential employees who are required to work will receive payment for hours actually worked at the rate of time and a half.
“Our basic thinking is that this works for a two-week shutdown, but if this thing goes longer, we’ve got to do something else or we’re going to drain our bank accounts,” said Commissioner President Brad Jackson. “If this ends up being a three-month thing, we can’t pay time and a half.”
Commissioners discussed what provisions should be made to the closure policy, focusing on pay for essential and non-essential pay as well as how to address vacation time and FMLA.
Eventually, it was decided that beginning April 7, payroll will change to full pay for all employees who are considered essential and required to work. Non-essential county employees who are at home and not working will receive two thirds pay for a duration of 10 weeks.
Department heads will have the authority to decide which employees are essential. Department heads may also rotate employees if desired.
County employees who are on vacation at the time of an emergency closure will be required to use vacation pay and will not be eligible for emergency closure pay during the time they are on vacation.
All were in agreement of approving the amended version of the policy.
In another matter, the claims policy ordinance was approved by commissioners. County Attorney Chad Miner said the ordinance basically enables commissioners to waive procedures and formalities that would typically be used with the claims process. The ordinance will allow one person to sign claims, which would then be ratified during the next public meeting.
Miner presented a resolution related to closures of the county justice building and the courthouse. The duration of the resolution would be from March 25 through midnight on April 6 to coincide with the Governor’s executive order.
Miner said one section of the resolution pertains to judges maintaining discretion in administering courts; another section relates to the county sheriff and decisions affecting the jail and inmates.
Another section involved closure of the county justice building.
“Generally, the public is prohibited from entrance to the justice building but for those who have scheduled court dates, this would include the parties and attorneys and anyone else the judges would deem necessary,” Miner said.
He said family members and friends are currently excluded from court proceedings.
“To the extent possible, we want local government to continue functioning and serving the needs of people as best we can,” said Miner.
This was approved by commissioners.
Kosciusko County Health Officer Bill Remington said there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county at this time.
“Actually there are a bunch of rural counties along the Route 30 Corridor that don’t have a single case yet,” Remington said, but added that, “It’s inevitable — I’m expecting that phone call any time.”
Remington thanked commissioners for “taking care of all the employees at the health department among all the other departments” and also for allowing the health department to hire a part-time, temporary epidemiologist.
In other meeting business:
- The Federal Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Policy and Federal Emergency Paid Sick Leave Policy were both approved.
- There was discussion about how to handle phone calls to the courthouse during shutdown. Jackson suggested departments work together in shifts to monitor the phone and answer calls in order to avoid using the automated system. Jackson expressed concern that those calling and repeatedly reaching the automated system may become frustrated. This will be looked into further.
- Commissioners approved a request by County Administrator Marsha McSherry in the amount of $8,525.11 for the replacement of battery packs for cameras and computers in the UPS system at the county justice building.
- The next regular meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. March 31.