Piedmont City Council considers dropping COVID sick leave policy

PIEDMONT – In a brief meeting on Tuesday, the Piedmont City Council discussed dropping its current COVID-19 sick leave policy during its work session.

Mayor Bill Baker brought up the issue during the council’s work session. The city council’s original COVID sick leave policy is set to expire in March.

“We’ve been very lenient, the council has been, with city employees (concerning COVID),” Baker said. “What we’ve been doing is if somebody is positive or has somebody in the family that is positive, under certain conditions we have been paying them their salary, but we’re beginning now to roll around two or three of the same people. They’re getting time off and getting paid. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but I’m saying I think we’re going to see more repetition of the same people getting paid. Is (dropping the COVID sick leave) something we want to do or not do?”

Baker said to his knowledge Piedmont and Jacksonville were the only two municipalities within Calhoun County paying its city employees who are out with COVID.

“Everybody else is telling them they just need to use their sick leave like they would with any other illness that they have,” Baker said. “I’m not trying to be hard. I’m not trying to be soft. I’m just saying that we need to decide what we want to do because I am seeing more and more, two or three people now, getting it.

“The first time, somebody may have had a family member, and they were in quarantine for that reason. Now the second time, they may have a positive test and bring a note from the doctor. They’ve gotten paid a second time again.”

“I’m wondering if we just need to drop it completely, like everybody else is doing. I know it’s not the flu. I know it’s not pneumonia, but sick is sick. People are taking their sick leave in other places too. I’m not saying that’s what we need to do. I’m just letting you know we’re seeing more and more of the same people that are either being quarantined because of a family member or because of themselves. We know people are going to continue to get sick. Are we going to continue to pay? I don’t know if that’s what we need to do. I just know what other municipalities are doing.”

District 5 representative Greg South and District 2 representative Richard Williams agreed with Baker on going back to normal sick leave. District 3 representative Jubal Feazell said he would like to drop the family portion of the COVID sick leave and let the city’s original COVID policy expire in March.

“Think about it,” Baker said. “I’m just tossing it out just for thought. I would like to bring it up at our next meeting. It’s just concerning we’re seeing second time around, third time around. I think at some point we’ve just got to say the city can’t keep paying you to be off 10 days.

“We’re not talking about first timers here. We’re talking about people who have been sick two or three times.”

In its regular meeting, the council passed a resolution concerning an opioid settlement in which the city would receive $19,032. The settlement was explained in detail by Piedmont City Clerk Carl Hinton.

“I got a call Dec. 16 from Luke Montgomery, who is from the firm we partner with, to try to get us some money for this opioid settlement. Basically what he said was this is the first round of many rounds to come. He said the lawsuits are just starting. He sees this foregoing for probably many years on all the settlements. Piedmont is getting $19,032. He said there were very few (municipalities) that did not participate in this program. Everybody is getting a piece of the pie. Basically, he said this is not the end of it. There’s more to come. Just be patient, and the money should keep trickling in.”

“That’s 19,032 we didn’t have prior, so that’s free money for us. That’s good news,” Baker said. “It’s good to know there will be some more. We don’t know exactly when, but as we get information, we’ll definitely share with you all.”

The council also approved two motions made by Feazell in the work session. The first was converting the Piedmont Civic Center Wells Fargo funds of $16,513 into the Civic Center F&M Bank account for the purposes of not letting it be forfeited to the state of Alabama. Feazell said the civic center’s Wells Fargo account has gone stagnant.

Feazell also made a motion to start moving the direct wire of the newest Alabama gas tax from the general fund to go toward a new account for the purposes of paying for road work.

Minutes from the previous meeting and expenses in the amount of $755,958.38, which included three weeks of payroll, were also approved.

In their closing comments, several council members thanked Piedmont Police Chief Nathan Johnson and his officers for their recent drug bust.

A week ago, the Piedmont Police Department, in conjunction with the Calhoun County SWAT Team, served a search warrant at a residence in Piedmont. During the execution of the warrant, Spencer Lerone Dudley was arrested for trafficking marijuana, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, receiving stolen property first degree, and possible additional charges.

Officers recovered approximately 40 pounds of marijuana pills, firearms, currency, and other illegal items from the residence.

Several council members also thanked the Piedmont Arts and Entertainment Council for the New Year’s Squirrel Drop in downtown.

Baker reiterated many of the council members’ comments and also reminded the audience of the Polar Plunge at the Piedmont Aquatic Center this Saturday at 10 a.m. for the Venecia Foundation.

The next council meeting is scheduled for Jan. 18.

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