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By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
In a meeting that entailed much discussion and little action Tuesday morning, the County Commission is currently trying to develop a COVID-19 policy for its employees.
When the item came up on the agenda, there was a great deal of discussion regarding how best to handle it. It was mentioned that the Sheriff’s Office overtime budget is affected because the Sheriff’s Office cannot shut down and has to have someone working.
Sheriff Michael Howell reported that he had three employees out this week and that he previously had people out multiple times because of them being exposed numerous times. He mentioned also having employees who had used all of their sick leave and vacation time, but still had to be out in order to quarantine.
During discussion it was stated that they need a policy in place to keep the county operating. County attorney John K. Johnson said the county has no provision for the county to pay an employee who is not working.
He further stated that employees must use sick days and vacation time, but then if they do not report back to work they are considered self terminating based on current policies. He suggested that the county may need a policy that gives department heads the ability to notate time sheets that an employee is absent with approval so that they do not lose their jobs.
County Administrator Amy Gilliland later explained that there is an exception to the self-terminating policy because of COVID-19, as well as other extreme circumstances that are exceptions to it. She explained that county employees can use their sick time, and it’s up to the employee whether to use their vacation time, but that they will not lose their job.
After much discussion, with Commissioner Lamar Daugherty absent from the meeting, the commission unanimously approved instating a policy for COVID-19 to the effect of employees having to use up their sick time then it would be up to the employee if they wanted to use their vacation time or choose not to get paid for the rest of their time off.
Gilliland later said that she has reached out to other county administrators for information regarding COVID-19 policies. She said that some counties have a policy in place, but most do not.
She added that they have to get a policy in place, sooner rather than later, because COVID-19 is not going away.
She added that Coosa County’s current action is what most counties are doing for now.
In addition to the county working on developing a policy for its employees, Gilliland reported that the Sheriff’s Office is also working on its own policy that would apply to its employees separately from the county policy.
In other action items, EMA Director Sheldon Hutcherson requested that the commission absorb the cost of lunch for the county-wide full-scale tornado exercise that will take place tomorrow at the school campus.
The exercise is expected to last all day, and he said Triple R Cafe of Rockford would provide sack lunches for $5 each. He said he expects 60-80 people to attend and participate in the exercise.
The commission unanimously approved absorbing the cost of lunch for participants for the tornado training exercise.
The commission and County Engineer Tad Eason also opened and reviewed annual bids for materials for the 2022 fiscal year.
After review, the commission unanimously approved bids for Gary Ingram Grading and Paving for pavement, Cemex for cement, Turner Oil for diesel fuel and gasoline, Hard Rock Hill for granite, and Hunt Refining for liquid asphalt.
The county received no bids for limestone or galvanized steel pipe, so those materials will be rebid.
Also during the meeting, County Extension Office Coordinator Sharon Haynes reported that her office is now at full capacity with employees who are there full time. She said that Auburn is covering the cost of the additional staff and that she is not requesting any additional funds for the 2022 fiscal year budget.
However, she said she is asking that a line item be added to the budget for $1,000 for the 4-H program. Currently the 4-H house in Hanover is in violation of ADA requirements because it does not have a ramp and therefore cannot qualify for grants.
She reported that there are now 120 youth in the county’s 4-H program and that they expect it to grow more.
Haynes also reminded everyone of the community gardens at the courthouse, with one fenced-in garden near the courthouse entrance and one garden on the U.S. Highway 231 side of the courthouse. The community gardens are provided as a public service, and residents and guests alike are welcome to pick produce for free from those.
She said they would also like to have volunteers to work the community garden and that they would like to be able to have a fall garden this year. Anyone wishing to volunteer to help with the gardens can call the Extension Office at 256-377-4713.
In other business, the commission also heard from Carroll Penton and Lisa Moncrief with Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, or RSVP, operated by Montgomery Area Council on Aging, or MACOA. They explained that they are interested in growing the program in Coosa County and that they are looking for volunteers who are 55 years old and above.
Penton is the county coordinator for Coosa and Montgomery counties, while Moncrief is with Tallapoosa County, but will also be helping with Coosa County.
For more information or to volunteer with RSVP, email Penton at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 256-377-4935.
Also during the meeting, Engineer Eason mentioned that road work on County Road 40 between County Road 18 and Alabama Highway 22 will start Monday morning and that there will be no through traffic while the work is being done.
In other business, the commission unanimously approved tabling requests for 2022 fiscal year appropriations, an amendment to the agreement with QCHC, renewal and amendment to QCHC, date for final 2022 fiscal year budget approval, long-term detention subsidy contract, and juvenile detention contract. All of those matters were tabled until the September 28 meeting.
The commission recessed from its meeting until Tuesday, September 21, at 8 a.m. for budget hearings. Following the budget hearings, the next regularly scheduled meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. September 28 for final budget approval and other matters.