by Kathy Tretter
Spencer County Commissioners and department heads met in special session this morning — inside the rotunda of the Spencer County Courthouse for social distancing — to adopt additional emergency measures in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
County Attorney Jefferson Lindsey prefaced business by explaining that with new orders from the state to stop all but essential business, commissioners had been in contact with officials in other counties to determine best practices for handling county business when business as usual is not an option.
They determined department heads should reduce staff within the courthouse as much as possible, with at least one staff member in attendance (at the courthouse, daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
However, they do not want to penalize employees or keep them from receiving a paycheck. Lindsey said (and this was confirmed via resolution and a vote by commissioners) as long as the furloughed employees stay home and are available by phone they will be paid. He confirmed this with the State Board of Accounts and Fair Labor Act.
It is up to department heads to figure out the rotation or who are considered essential personnel.
As to the highway department, since they work out of doors and by virtue of what they are doing naturally socially distance, they will be required to continue working.
Remote access is extremely limited on the bottom two floors of the courthouse. In fact, only about five people are able to remote in. Some may be able to work at home without remoting in and all are to be available by phone so the person working in the office can contact them with questions.
“In my opinion this is pretty cut and dried,” opined Commissioner President Jim Seiler. “It’s something we all need to deal with.”
Lindsey read Resolution 2020-05, setting out the protocol in this emergency declaration and it was approved following a motion by Commissioner Tom Brown and a second by Commissioner Al Logsdon, who had remoted in. The resolution is published here in its entirety.
If an employee needs to see a doctor, he or she should call in and use a sick day.
Comp time is eliminated since this is an emergency situation. Department heads need to manage staff. The sheriff’s office and jail are also unique situations, similar although different from the highway department.
Brown was concerned if a staff member comes down with the virus but Seiler noted the protocols for those entering the courthouse adopted earlier (including having their temperature taken by Health Department employees who Seiler praised for their diligence).
The emergency resolution as adopted will be in place until April 7. However, it can be extended or retooled at any time.
Seiler expressed his opinion that no government meetings should be held over the next two weeks. The only ones scheduled are Planning and the Board of Zoning Appeals and since there is no critical business both are canceled.
Lindsey also presented a second resolution, written by Auditor Heidi Greene following a State Board of Accounts directive.
This allows one commissioner to sign off on claims instead of all three. Commissioner President Jim Seiler was given this authority via Resolution 2020-04 during this health emergency.
That resolution is also printed below.
The next scheduled meeting of the Spencer County Commissioners is set for Tuesday, April 7, although whether that meeting will go forward will depend on how the COVID-19 situation stands at that time.
SPENCER COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
COVID-19 EMERGENCY DECLARATION
Whereas, Spencer County, Indiana has been and continues to be threatened by the COVID-19 virus that makes gathering in groups or other social contact treacherous and unsafe and;
Whereas, the Spencer County Board of Commissioners previously enacted Emergency Proclamation 2020-03, and;
Whereas, the condition and threat to the safety and health of County Staff and community members presented by the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow, and;
Whereas, the Governor of the State of Indiana has entered Executive Orders including 20-08, 20-19, 20-10, and 20-11 declaring, among other things that Hoosiers should stay home and State Government operations should be put on emergency basis until 11:49 p.m. April 6, 2020, and;
Whereas, at the present time, in order to further reduce social contact, and protect the staff the County Offices should continue their essential functions with only the minimum number of staff in order to conduct their essential functions, and;
Whereas, employees who are sent home should be available for work calls, questions, and working remotely during work hours.
NOW, THEREFORE, we, the Spencer County Board of Commissioners, proclaim as follows;
1. Effective March 25, 2020, at 7:00 a.m. an emergency exists in Spencer County. We hereby invoke and declare those portions of the Indiana Code and County Ordinances, which are applicable to the conditions and have caused the issuance of this proclamation, to be in full force and effective in the County for the exercise of all necessary emergency authority for protection of the lives and health of the people of Spencer County and the restoration of local government with a minimum of interruption.
2. Reference is hereby made to all appropriate laws, statutes, ordinances, and resolutions, and particularly to section §10-14-3-29 of the Indiana Code.
3. All County offices and employees of Spencer County are hereby directed to exercise the utmost diligence in the discharge of duties required of them for the duration of the emergency and in execution of emergency laws, regulations, and directives – state and local.
4. All County elected officials are called upon to reduce their staff working in their offices to just the amount deemed necessary to perform the essential functions of their office at that location.
5. Where possible staff should be allowed to work from home remotely to their offices.
6. Those staff members sent home shall remain available during regular work hours to answer calls or questions related to their employment.
7. Employees will be paid their regular salary whether they are in the office or working at home. We realize that not everyone has the same ability to work at home, but everyone shall be available if called upon to do so to meet the needs of Spencer County. This is not a day off. Employees who are not in the department/office are expected to be at home and available for work.
8. Department heads will be responsible for determining what work can be done from home.
9. The County Commissioners renew those provisions contained in Resolution 2020-03, and encourage all staff and citizens to protect themselves and abide by the recommendations of the CDC, Indiana Department of Health, the Federal and State Orders.
10. This Declaration of Emergency and provision contained herein shall remain in effect until April 7, 2020 at 2:30 p.m.
Approved and Adopted this 24th day of March, 2020.
BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS OF THE COUNTY OF SPENCER:
Thomas A. Logsdon
Heidi Greene, Spencer County Auditor
CLAIM APPROVAL PROCESS DURING THIS TIME OF EMERGENCY BY THE COMMISSIONERS
This Resolution is adopted by the Spencer County Board of Commissioners as follows:
Whereas Indiana Code Section 5-11-10 governs the claim approval process and is still in effect during this time of emergency.
The State Board of Accounts will not take audit exception if the governing body uses the following procedure:
Whereas the Spencer County Commissioners designate one of its members to approve claims for payment in advance of board allowance. The board must allow those claims at its first meeting after the Public Health Emergency has ended.
Wherefore the Spencer County Commissioners appoint Jim Seiler, President of the board, to approve all claims during this Public Health Emergency.
ALL OF WHICH RESOLVED THIS 24th day of March, 2020.
BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS,
SPENCER COUNTY, INDIANA
Thomas “Al” Logsdon
Heidi Greene, Auditor