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Putnam Commission Approves COVID Stipends For Employees

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Putnam Commission Approves COVID Stipends For Employees

The Putnam County Commission approved employee stipends Monday to all full-time and part-time employees that qualify.

Mayor Randy Porter originally recommended first responders to receive $2,000 and other full-time workers $1,200. After several motions, amendments and lengthy discussion Monday, Commissioner Darren Wilson made the motion to increase that.

“If this American Rescue Fund is available to support employees across the board, my opinion would be 3,000 per full-time employee and for those that qualify based upon what Mayor (Randy) Porter did for part-time, the part-timers should receive half that,” Wilson said.

Commissioners voted 13-7 with three abstains in favor of the one-time bonuses. Mayor Randy Porter said full-time employees that worked at least 55 percent of the last fiscal year and came into work 80 percent of the time will benefit.

“The reason I picked 80 percent is is that we had some employees that had COVID,” Porter said. “We had some employees that their families had COVID, and they were out on medical leave some of them more than once. So, I didn’t want to penalize someone.”

Porter said part-time workers will have to have worked at least 500 hours during the same time frame. Employees that worked from home do not qualify.

Porter said the county currently has 495 full-time and 114 part-time employees. Porter originally allocated $1 million for the stipends, but the increase brings the price tag to about $1.6 million. Putnam County will receive some $15.5 million of American Rescue Plan funding in total.

Commissioner Cindy Adams started the first of several motions Monday. Adams said she did not have a problem with bonuses for employees but wanted to do more to benefit the county as a whole.

“Our job is to take care of the county, and there are thousands of people who worked through COVID,” Adams said. “Some of them low paying jobs, minimum wage jobs that came to work everyday during COVID and they’re not getting bonuses. We have a lot of small business owners and their employees who were shut down by state mandate for quite a while and struggled to make ends meet. (…) It just seems to me with that and the fact we have hundreds of people who do not have access to clean drinking water right now, and we can use some of these funds for that as well as other things that benefit the entire county.”

Adams’ motioned for $1,200 for full-time employees and $2,000 for first responders but did not receive a second. Later in the meeting, Commissioner Jimmy Neal said he wanted to give more to emergency workers and motioned to give first responders $5,000 and full-time workers $4,000. Commissioner Adam Johnson seconded.

“They don’t cull anything, and I just want to say I think that means something versus somebody who…,” Neal said. “Hey, I appreciate everybody that worked, especially the guys down at the transfer station, they were always there, but these people that had to do a hands-on approach with who were infected and some of them suffered from it.”

Commission Chair Mike Atwood then called upon department heads present for an opportunity to speak. Road Supervisor Randy Jones said if a bonus is approved, it should be even for all positions.

“I know the first responders they were probably into this a lot deeper than everybody else, but that’s a profession they choose,” Jones said. “We got county employees. I got county employees I think the world of, but I think they are all county employees, and I think if you’re going to give one dollar or 300 dollars or 5,000 dollars, it should be even across the board.”

Putnam County Trustee Freddie Nelson said, “I just would like to echo what Randy said.” Commissioner Jonathan Williams said if the county did not handle the bonuses appropriately, it could cause division among employees.

“I do believe that all county employees whatever formula we choose, it needs to be applied the same across the board regardless of which office or department they work for,” Williams said.

Williams said Neal’s motion was also an excessive amount of money. This ultimately lead to Wilson’s motion of $3,000 for full-time employees and half that for part-time employees.

In other business, the Putnam County Commission approved the sale of the Shoney’s Hill property. The some 29 acres had six interested parties. V3 Reality was the high bidder at $2 million.

The county’s Audit Committee was reappointed Monday. The committee consists of Commissioners Ben Rodgers, Jim Martin and Mike Atwood. Each member will serve for a two year term.

The speed limit for Ben Jared Road was reduced from 40 mph to 35 mph. Speed reductions for Ashburn and Foxhill Roads did not move past committee. For consideration, 75 percent of addresses on the road must sign on a petition. Both roads received no signatures.


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