By Brandon Martin
Following a previous motion allowing hazard duty pay for emergency medical services and law enforcement personnel, the Henry County Board of Supervisors approved a concept of hazard reimbursement to other county employees who worked during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The supplement to law enforcement and EMS was funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The amount was $3 per hour for COVID-related work hours between March 1-Aug. 31, per qualifying employee.
“We are hopeful that those checks will be distributed to personnel this week,” County Administrator Tim Hall said.
For the rest of the county employees, the board approved parameters to pay a stipend, from county funds, for full-time staff of approximately $2,000 and $500 for part-time employees.
“That number looks like it could be around $240,000,” Hall said.
Finance Director Darrell Jones said the stipends are based on workable hours and that payments would vary based on the amount of hours each employee worked.
“Some work 35-hour weeks, some work 37.5, some work 40, so there will be sort of a proration. The full-time will be up to $2,000,” Jones said. “Some will be less depending on what their schedules are.”
This was just part one of the equation, according to Hall.
“Part two is we partially fund employees at the Department of Social Services and also in 9-1-1,” Hall said. The county share of that expense, we would like to do it on a proportional scale from a stipend standpoint.”
Hall said that the county covers about 70 percent of the cost for 9-1-1 services, based on call volume, and 67 percent of the cost for social services. Based on these ratios, he suggested an additional $210,000 to cover those employees who worked during the pandemic.
“If you do the math in your head, that’s about a combined $450,000,” Hall said.
Hall said that an appropriation out of the county’s fund balance would be required for funding, “however, another part of the CARES Act allows us to allocate an entire salary for some folks.”
Using the CARES Act funds “frees up money in our budget that we were going to pay those folks with, and we think we can come pretty close to paying off the stipend for the regular employees out of what we have saved by not spending it on the folks that are in the CARES Act process,” Hall said.
The board unanimously approved the concept.
Hall clarified the motion did not obligate the city to pay a portion for shared services.
In a related note, Deputy County Administrator Dale Wagoner said that the Public Service Authority had approved $100,000 for their workers at their Sept. 21 meeting, contingent on the county board’s decision.
In other matters presented, the board:
*Directed Hall to sign a letter with James Cherney, of Cherney Development Co., following a presentation on redevelopment plans to John Redd Smith Elementary.
Cherney said that he plans on repurposing the school into a mixed-used, apartment-style complex with about 32 living units to accommodate workforce housing.
“These are initiatives for first responders, teachers, or health care workers who have a need for that type of housing, as well as some manufacturing labor to support the revitalization that you all have fostered for the City of Martinsville and Henry County,” Cherney said.
Cherney said that his company has completed approximately 20 repurposing jobs, even repurposing a school in Hampton Roads.
“We hope to enhance the neighborhood and we hope to increase your tax base by investing about $3.1 million into the project,” Cherney said. “I’m excited by the re-imagining that is going on here. We are community-minded developers, so we look forward to bringing some new eyes and some new money to the area.”
Chairman Jim Adams, of the Blackberry District, said that he, as a member of the community, has witnessed projects on excess buildings “that don’t always turn out well. It’s great to have visionaries that can see the potential of what it can be.”
*Appropriated $54,176 from Virginia’s Four-for-Life, return-to-localities fund. This fund is derived from a fee charged on each vehicle registered in Henry County. The funds must be used for emergency medical services training, supplies, and/or equipment.
*Adopted a Continuity of Government Emergency ordinance in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The previous ordinance had an automatic expiration of six months and concludes Sept. 24.
*Approved the abandonment of approximately 825-feet of a 40-foot right-of-way that extends beyond the end of White Pine Road in the Blackberry District. Marc and Gail Thomas own all of the property on the east side of the proposed abandonment, and have an agreement with the owner on the west side to purchase the portion of their right-of-way. All of the Thomas’ properties will be combined into one tract.
*Reappointed Carter Underwood and Scott Prillaman to the Southern Virginia Recreation Facilities Authority for terms to expire Oct. 31, 2024.
*Approved a transfer of $9,025 from the fund balance to the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber’s Partnership for Economic Growth.
*Hall updated the board on the county’s small business grant, which is funded through the CARES Act. He said the county awarded $299,700 to 117 businesses, eclipsing the original $250,000 investment.