Accomack Approves Bonus for First Responder Employees

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By Carol Vaughn —

The Accomack County Board of Supervisors approved a one-time bonus for county employees who are first responders, with the money coming from state and federal funds.
The board also directed the county administrator to come back to them at a future meeting with information about the cost to extend the bonus to other county employees.
“We may have to go beyond ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds,” said Supervisor Donald L. Hart Jr. of the proposal to give all county employees a bonus.
Supervisor C. Reneta Major, an employee of the Northampton County Department of Social Services, said Northampton County gave a bonus of $1.25 per hour to employees.
“Not taking anything from first responders …. but I know of too many other folk” from other county departments who worked through the pandemic, some of whom contracted COVID-19, Major said, adding, “We should do something for the other folk.”
Wednesday’s vote extended the bonus beyond the employees — state-funded sworn positions in the sheriff’s office — for whom the state Compensation Board had approved payment from state funds.
In addition to those the compensation board directive included, Accomack officials extended the bonus to full-time or part-time sworn positions under control of the sheriff funded by local sources and to all full-time and part-time certified fire medics, captains, and battalion chiefs, including the director of public safety.
The bonus does not include dispatchers or administrative positions in the Sheriff’s Office.
Full-time employees eligible for the bonus under the Compensation Board directive will receive $3,000 on Nov. 30.
All other county first responders will receive $13 for each hour worked from Sept. 15 to Nov. 15, with a $3,000 maximum.
The bonuses will be paid for with $232,524 of federal American Rescue Act funds and $158,245 from the Compensation Board.
In the past year, the board of supervisors also approved a one-time hazard pay bonus for first responders who provided face-to-face services during the COVID-19 pandemic, paid for with federal CARES Act funds.
Last November, the board approved a $600 bonus for all county employees, paid for out of local funds.
Additionally, the board approved raises effective July 1 for all employees. Those raises generally were around 5%, according to information Accomack County Administrator Mike Mason provided the board.
Hearing About Election District Changes is Monday
The board will hold a public hearing Monday, Oct. 25, 15 6 p.m., at Metompkin Elementary School to receive comment about proposed changes to election district boundaries.
State law requires localities that elect governing bodies by district to redistrict every ten years to account for population and demographic shifts, using numbers from the latest U.S. Census.
Districts must adhere to the Fourteenth Amendment’s right of equal protection by not separating voters on the predominant basis of race or ethnicity.
Each precinct is to have no fewer than 100 voters and no more than 5,000 voters, under state law.
For the first time, Electoral District 1 will include residents on the mainland, in the area around Wallops and the NASA Wallops Flight Facility main base, as well as on Chincoteague, according to the proposal.
The town of Hallwood will move from District 2 to District 4 and the area known as Poplar Cove, near Onancock, will move from District 7 to District 6.
No changes to polling places are proposed.
If the Attorney General approves Accomack’s plan, the changes will be effective in 2022.
VFDs to Get ARPA Money from County
Volunteer fire departments will be be eligible to receive federal ARPA funds from the county in a program that focuses on replacing revenue lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Supervisor Robert Crockett made the motion to implement the program under the federal guidelines where it applies and to give $50,000 to each volunteer department, whether it comes from the federal money or local funds.
“Everyone will leave with the same amount of money,” Crockett said.
Crockett called volunteers “the third rung of first responders,” with law enforcement and public safety employees being the others.
The board unanimously approved the motion.
VFDs must comply with the county’s poicy requiring an annual audit to receive the money.
“We need to keep the fire companies whole. … We need to treat the volunteers first responders just as we do anyone else,” Crockett said.