County extends building closure, full pay through April

Auditor announces new polling locations for June 2 primary

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

LEE COUNTY – County officials extended the closure of public buildings with the exception of courthouse facilities through at least May 1 due to the coronavirus outbreak.

As part of the move approved at Tuesday’s teleconferenced Board of Supervisor’s meeting, the county also extended full pay and benefits for all county employees through the same time period.

Supervisor Matt Pflug said it was critical that the county keep serving the public as completely as possible under the circumstances.

“I think it’s critical to function as we are, and we are far from being out of the critical stage,” Pflug said.

Several department heads indicated their staff was working from home including Lee County Auditor Denise Fraise, and Lee County Attorney Ross Braden. But several others, including Lee County Treasurer Chris Spann and Recorder Nancy Booten said many of their staff couldn’t work from home either from lack of laptops or lack of work, and were currently on paid administrative leave.

Michelle Reed, the county’s benefits coordinator said the county will be implementing federal emergency paid sick leave and Family Medical Leave Acts on April 13 to help differentiate sick leave and family benefits related to COVI-19, or other illnesses.

Lee County Conservation Director Nathan Unsworth said the county has to be cognizant of the ever-changing nature of the impact of the coronavirus.

“Over the long term we need to think about how long this is gonna go on and how this is gonna change,” he said. “Workloads could go up and down depending on the time of year, so we need to consider that as well.”

Auditor Denise Fraise said some employees are just on administrative leave at this point, and the county would have the option of having those employees file for unemployment with the state. The federal government would also supplement the unemployment by $600.

She added that while on unemployment, the employees wouldn’t be contributing to the Iowa Public Employees Retirement System (IPERS).

Reed said it would cleaner if the county just treated all employees the same.

Supervisor Rich Harlow made the motion to continue the current building closure and pay structure through April 30 and Pflug seconded the motion which was approved unanimously.

In an unrelated matter, Supervisor Gary Folluo said the county had received one proposal to provide ambulance services in the county, but didn’t provide details because the process is on-going.

Supervisors then authorized Folluo and Supervisor Rick Larkin to continue to negotiate with Fort Madison and Keokuk fire departments on the possibility of them providing ambulance services in the county. The motion, approved 5-0, also opens the door for any other companies to submit proposals to the county.

In other action, the board:

• voted, 5-0, to put out a request for proposals on a countywide digital radio conversion. A committee comprised of the heads of first responder departments throughout the county has been informing cities within the county of the upgrade and it’s estimated $7 million price tag. The county would levy a tax to pay for the upgrade that will give all county emergency crews 95% coverage in the county.

• voted 5-0 to approve a purchase, software and services contract with Know Ink LLC of St. Louis for new poll pads to replace laptops for the county polling locations. The contract is for five years and includes 25 new computer pads. The Iowa Secretary of State’s office won’t support the current laptop system software after 2020 so the shift was required, according to County Elections Administrator Nikki Sugars.
Auditor Denise Fraise also announced that June 2 primary voting has been moved to the 1st Christian Church at 3476 Main Street in Keokuk, and the 1st Baptist Church Fellowship Hall at 301 24th Street in Fort Madison to allow people to spread out more and accommodate more voters.

• voted 5-0, to approve the purchase of two new dump trucks at a cost of $313,000. The new trucks have a 35% reimbursement from a federal grant so supervisors moved ahead with the purchase rather than risk the potential loss of the grant. The grant requires the county to dispose of two of the older trucks under a diesel enhancement program by Aug. 31.

• voted 5-0, to approve new employee leave and, 4-0 to approve a new telecommuting policy.

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