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LaGrange to Use CARES Funds as Hazard Pay for Employees

 

Tommy Murphy

Staff Writer

At the suggestion of Mayor Jim Thornton, the LaGrange City Council has voted to give $600,000 of its Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) funds back to city employees as hazard pay for working through the pandemic.

Full-time city employees will each receive an additional $500 in their October, November, and December paychecks for a total of $1,500. Part-time employees will receive $250 per check for $750 in total.

The upcoming disbursal was unanimously approved by the council during Tuesday evening’s council meeting.

The city has about 400 full-time employees and 25 part-time employees, so the payments would cost the city $618,750 of the $1.6 million in federal funds that were recently approved by the Governor’s Office.

The funding will be provided as part of the CARES Act. Under the act, federal relief funds were awarded to states, which in turn were passed down to local municipalities for COVID-19 related expenses.

Thornton suggested using a portion of the funds to provide hazard pay to full-time employees during the Tuesday morning work session. Councilman Nathan Gaskin suggested giving part-time employees prorated payments, to which the council agreed to give them the $250 payments at the mayor’s suggestion.

Elected officials and city department heads were specifically excluded from the increased pay. All other employees, regardless of position or pay rate, will receive the additional hazard pay.

“One constant during six months of the coronavirus, has been the unwavering dedication of the 400 plus employees of the city of LaGrange,” said Thornton, noting that city employees deserved the pay for placing themselves in harm’s way and potentially being exposed to coronavirus.

In other business, the council unanimously approved and an ordinance amendment that updates the city’s policy on how it handles repairs when work is done in right-of-ways.

Previously, when the city needed to do underground repairs that disturb residents’ driveways and landscaping, it would return it to its original condition. Under the change, city will still repair damage done in right-of-ways, but they will not pay to replace expensive driveway enhancements beyond minimum customary specifications, such as standard concrete or asphalt driveways and replacing sod.

The issue came to the attention of the council when a proposed sidewalk would have interfered with expensive driveway improvement plans made by a homeowner on Gordon Street. The sideway was ultimately rejected, but it made the council consider having to repair expensive driveway enhancements.

Homeowners who already have expensive right-of-way enhancements will also not be grandfathered into the previous practice of full replacement.

The next LaGrange City Council Meeting is scheduled for Oct. 13, at 5:30 p.m. at the Del’Avant event center.

The author of this article can be reached via email at [email protected] net.

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