By Ralph Dickerson
The Lewisport City Council held a unique meeting Thursday due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The council met online, meaning council members joined in via the Internet from the safety of their homes, and Mayor Chad Gregory live streamed from the city hall council meeting room.
“This is rather historic because we are all having to use technology,” Gregory said. “I hope you all are well.”
In a rather short meeting, the council took the following actions. It approved on second reading Ordinance 20-2, amending the city’s budget. The ordinance amended the city’s general Fund revenue from $787,477 to $981,224. The change came from the city receiving the loan for the new Hancock County Library being built on the site of the former Lewisport Elementary School.
“We had to show that money coming into the city,” Gregory said.
In addition, the budget ordinance adjusted the LGEA Fund revenue by $500 to $2,500, and projected Gas Fund revenues increased from $1,944,625 to $2,049.200. Water Fund revenue increased from $516,051 to $536,500, and Sewer Fund from $361,051 to $398,600. The Fire Department Fund increased from $33,600 to $35,200, and the Park Fund from $100,450 to $104,000. The Heritage Festival Fund increased from $28,450 to $41,000 and the Municipal Fund from $3,000 to $6,000. The total revenue to the city increased from $4,029.974 to $4,237,024.
The council approved the measure 5-0 on a roll call vote.
Coronavirus leave act
The city council also approved Municipal Order 03-26-20, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. In a nutshell, the act grants eligible full-time employees 80 hours of paid leave, and eligible part-time employees the average weekly hours worked for the six months prior to asking for the leave. The order applies to people under legal order to quarantine or self-isolate, advised by a healthcare professional to quarantine or self-isolate, experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking medical diagnosis, caring for an individual under legal order to quarantine or self-isolate, or caring for his or her child if the normal childcare provider is not available due to COVID-19, or experiencing any other substantially similar situation.
In addition, the act provides up to 12-weeks of job protected leave for eligible employees with 30-days or more time on the job needing to care for a child under age 18 due to the coronavirus. The first 10-days are unpaid, but Emergency Paid Sick Leave applies in this situation. Starting at week three, eligible full-time and part-time employees receive two-thirds of their regular rate of pay. The act limits full-time employees to a maximum of $200 per day and a total amount of $10,000.
“A lot of this is pertaining to the employees here,” Gregory said. “It basically talks about what should happen if one of the employees should get sick, the quarantine process and the insurance process.”
As part of this order, Gregory said the city enacted an on-call process for the employees. He split the crew into two teams of three, and each team works every other day, with the other crew on an on-call status if needed.
“The ones that are off, they are at home, they are being paid, but on call,” he said. “If an emergency happens, on call workers have 30 minutes to report to work. They are not to be running around. We have to keep the gas, water and sewer systems operating.”
In other action, by state mandate Gregory needed to appoint people to take his place in case he is unable to discharge the duties of his office due to COVID-19. The appointments came in two categories, those invested with all executive powers granted to a mayor including promulgating regulations and signing ordinances, and those granted limited executive authority minus the ability to promulgate regulations or sign ordinances. Gregory appointed Josephine Hagan as his stand-in with total mayoral powers, with Mary Rummage being the alternate. He appointed Wes Pate to be his stand in with limited mayoral powers, with Mary Margaret Hawkins being the alternate.
The council also granted Gregory and City Administrator Brent Wiggington the authority to bid out streets for repair. The council also approved the minutes of the February 20 council meeting and the March 6 special council meeting. The council also approved the payment of the claims and the financial statements.