By Carol Vaughn —
Chincoteague town council members voted to give town employees a raise that had been delayed in July due to budgetary concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The council voted unanimously at the Thursday, Nov. 19 meeting to give the raise starting with pay period 10, deferring until May a decision on an option to make the raise retroactive to the start of the fiscal year.
The annual cost of the raise is $59,285.
Chincoteague Town Manager Mike Tolbert updated the council about distribution of federal CARES Act funds, saying the town has awarded 99 grants to small businesses and watermen, totaling $398,000.
The council voted to spend part of the remaining nearly $60,000 allocated to the town on a new dispatch system for the police department.
The cloud-based system involves minimal equipment and will cost around $20,000 for equipment and installation, plus a maintenance fee.
The $1,000 per month fee matches the amount the town charges the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, starting last year, for dispatch service, according to Tolbert.
Other suggested expenditures for the remaining federal funds include remote message display boards, personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies, among other items.
Emergency Management Coordinator Bryan Rush updated the council on the COVID-19 pandemic state of emergency.
Chincoteague has had a total of 40 cases, including two additional cases since Monday, he said.
He spoke about a point of distribution plan for a vaccine to be administered, when available, to active EMS volunteers and town employees in the first phase of vaccinations.
“Today, I have been informed that the CDC and the Virginia Department of Health are projecting a phase one rollout of vaccinations by mid- to late December,” Rush said, adding, “Our frontline healthcare providers are going to be first in line.”
The council approved an EMS staffing proposal Rush presented to help better meet response demands.
He noted the department has been short two full-time employees for some time due to a surgery and an injury on the job.
The department normally has eight full-time employees besides Rush, as well as 11 part-time employees.
Minimum staffing of two people per shift is happening between 40% and 55% of the time at present, meaning there is no local response for a second ambulance call during those times.
“We’re looking at a 12- to 25-minute mutual aid response” from an ambulance off the island to handle a second call, Rush said.
The budget and personnel committee in consultation with the Chincoteague Vol. Fire Company recommended hiring more part-time employees to fill the gaps.
Rush said he plans to go from 11 to 15 part-time staff, which will cost around $102,000 for the rest of the fiscal year.
Still, $55,220 remains in the current budget and the department is $31,000 under total projected expenses for the year to date, so the additional amount needed is around $17,000.
The council voted unanimously to approve the plan.
The council in other action approved a conditional use permit for David Landsberger to allow use of a separate building at his residence as a bedroom. The building formerly housed his office, which he since moved into a former bedroom in his house.
No one spoke at the public hearing.