Hopkins County Commissioners Court during their regular meeting Monday morning approved five policy changes, including a new policy implemented related to COVID-19
Travel, Sick Pool Policies
Commissioners amended a county employee travel policy. When an employee uses a personal vehicle for travel, that county employee would be reimbursed the lesser of two options. The policy is an addition to the rental car policy approved by the court in November.
Also discussed was the number of months an employee must have worked at the county before joining sick leave pool. That has been reduced to 12 months, Newsom said.
Employee CDL Policy
Precinct 3 Commissioner Wade Bartley explained a change to the personnel policy regarding requirements to work on county road crews. The individual must have a Commercial Driver’s License to work on the crew. The county allows individuals to be hired on a part-time basis to be paid hourly and take a written CDL test within 60 days of employment. After three unsuccessful attempts to pass the test, a 2-week extension will be granted. Failure to pass at that time would be grounds for dismissal. After passing the written test, the employee has 90 days to pass the CDL driving test in order to qualify to become a full-time employee with benefits.
“So this is stating that we put them to work as a part time employee and do not have to pay them benefits until they pass this test,” Bartley said, noting he’d had employees in the past the after 6 months still had not passed the test. He said if they haven’t passed the CDL test to obtain their license within the specified time, they’d be fired.
COVID-19 Personnel Policy
A special personnel policy considered by the Commissioners Court during an executive session, was a policy regarding COVID-19. Texas Association of Counties recommended counties consider a court order adding to the personnel policy procedure in the instance a county employee is exposed or has the Coronoavirus, Newsom said. The court approved the policy.
Essentially, Judge Robert Newsom said, if a county employee is exposed to or tests positive for COVID-19, the burden is on the employee to prove it. The decision Monday afternoon, March 23, to continue county operations on an appointment only basis for only county employees until the concerns regarding COVID-19 pandemic are significantly reduced, should help reduce county employees’ potential exposure to it while at work.
The policy outlines actions if an employee tests positive or has a presumptive positive result for COVID-19, steps the supervisor must take in those instances, notification to human resources and a public health authority if warranted, their absence from work and pay. Any testing and medical fees would be charged to the employee’s health insurance and fees would be paid to the employee.
The policy also addresses individuals who have symptoms of the common cold and flu, but not COVID-19, and are required to miss work, how they are paid and when they can return to work.
Firefighters hired and paid under the SAFER grant guidelines will be eligible to begin receiving insurance benefits beginning on the employee’s hire date.
Essentially, the grant is allowing the county to add three additional full-time firefighters to the roster, one for each shift. The grant will cover 75 percent of the cost for the additional personnel the first two years of their employment, then 35 percent the third year. The county would be responsible for 25 percent the first two years the full cost the fourth year and thereafter, Hopkins County Fire Department Chief Andy Endsley. The county’s matching portion of the grant will come from the general fund, according to County Auditor Aulsbrook.
Normally, county employees have to wait 90 days before they are eligible for health insurance from the county. However, because the government is paying benefits, this will allow those three hired under the SAFER grant to have health insurance beginning April 1.
The policy was approved and the budget amended for the grant. The grant allowed the county to begin the hiring process on March 16.