Supervisors OK temporary employee benefit changes due to COVID-19

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In a unanimous vote on Tuesday, Nov. 17, the Washington County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution for temporary changes to the employee handbook to meet emergencies caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In brief, changes continue federal FFCRA coverage for employees who are under a quarantine order from the state health department, putting them on administra-tive leave by the county. The changes also allow employees to choose (not re-quired) to use any personal leave time available to them to supplement the two-thirds pay they receive on leave.

The temporary measure ends at the close of the third quarter of the fiscal year, March 31, 2021.  At that time the maximum “banked” hours for full-time employees will be reduced to 220 hours from 240 and to 140 from 180 for part-time employees. Hours in excess of the limits will be forfeited.

At the end of the fiscal year, June 30, 2021, maximum vacation hours for full-time and part-time employees will return to 200 and 120 hours, respectively. The figures were the previous ones prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The board also addressed further COVID-19 concerns, discussing impact on courthouse operations, masks requirements, social distancing and monitoring the number of visitors at courthouse offices, especially ones will high volume business such as the auditor and treasurer offices.

As a result, the board agreed to “strongly recommended” use of masks by all visitors. While not an outright mandate, the request is geared to those who are in an office making contact with personnel for more than 15 minutes. The board also approved having masks available at offices for any individual who comes to the courthouse.

During the discussion, it was noted that more than 75% of those who came to the courthouse wore masks and all did social distancing.

Noting, “there is never a good time to close down [the courthouse],” auditor Dan Widmer agreed strongly with the mask recommendation with Supervisor Bob Yoder stressing “just wear a mask” as a better move than a shut down.  The board also agreed it will follow all state-ordered mandates.

In other business, the board:

• unanimously approved a voting recount order for the Iowa 2nd Congressional District US House of Representatives seat in which there is 47-vote difference between the Republican Ashley Hinson and Democrat Rita Hart candidates. The re-count is part of a total district recount requested by the trailing Democratic candidate;

• appointed supervisor Bob Yoder as the county representative on the Riverside Planning & Zoning Commission. Yoder is the District 2 supervisor that includes Riverside. The appointment meets state case requirements;

• received the annual report from the Washington County Public Library Association outlining the operational changes for all three libraries (Kalona, Wellman and Washington) caused by COVID-19, all of whom saw “substantial increases” in their Bridges database services and circulation: 26% in Kalona, 49.5% in Wellman and 25% in Washington. The report noted “the county libraries’ ability to provide such content is made possible only through your funding.”

The Association, noting it has not had a funding increase for three years despite rising costs, requested a 1.9% increase of $3,029 for a total of $168,029 from the county.  It brings county funding to a per capita fee of $20.92, based on the 2010 census.

County funds provide for programs and services for all three libraries with the remainder divided among the three to reimburse costs of providing services to rural residents.  Funds are allocated based on rural circulation of city populations.  The highest per capita payment is from Kalona at $75.29; and

• received the weekly COVID-19 update noting that there are a total of 2,123 residents who tested positive and the county death count remains at 12. However, there have been false findings for both positive and negative testing, but the COVID tests have been 80% accurate.  More important, there is now more rapid testing, the board was told by Public Health Director Danielle Pettit-Majewski.

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