Some Whitley County employees to receive 'premium pay' from ARPA funds
WHITLEY COUNTY - During their monthly meeting Thursday, members of the Whitley County Fiscal Court unanimously approved a fiscal court order that would add a $2 per hour premium rate of pay to eligible county employee’s paychecks.
During the meeting, Judge-Executive Pat White, Jr. explained the premium pay was being made possible through through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. White said that although there were some strict contingencies on what counties and other government bodies could use the money for, there were two primary purposes the federal government had set for the money to be used for.
The first purpose is to spend the money in ways that will help prevent the spread of disease. The other major specifically stated purpose of the ARPA funds, White said, was to pay employees who make below a certain threshold of $69,000 a year an additional premium rate of pay. In order to receive the pay, employees will need to sign documentation claiming they are eligible for the premium pay.
The premium rate of pay will be taxed as regular pay is, said county officials. White said he spoke with the county clerk and the sheriff’s department in making sure they are also reimbursed out of the ARPA funding to allow their employees the opportunity to receive similar subsidies. White said county supervisors were excited for the new premium pay, hoping that it will help with employee retention.
“I think our employees certainly have worked hard though the pandemic, faced a lot of challenges through the pandemic,” White said. “I think in general our employees deserve more than what we have ever been able to pay them anyhow.”
A lot of the items on Thursday’s meeting agenda dealt with ARPA funds. For example, during the meeting the court also approved Ordinance 2021-07, a budget amendment that largely pertained to ARPA funding. They later approved updating the court’s procurement policy for purchases made with ARPA funds to better comply with federal rules. White said the changes to the policy weren’t much different from what the court had been using, which were based on the state’s standards.
The court also used ARPA funds to purchase a new garbage truck for the county. Before doing so, members of the court had to first approve utilizing the program, SourceWell, for purchasing items placed for bid. White explained that the court had been using a similar system to SourceWell, but added that some companies exclusively use SourceWell, which he believed was the case with the garbage truck. The court’s new policy will allow them to use both the old system they were previously using, as well as the SourceWell system, moving into the future. White said because the truck was automated and prevented drivers from having to handle garbage, the county would be permitted to use ARPA funding to purchase the truck.
“So it would not be a direct cost to the county,” White said, later adding, “I came up with that concept in trying to find ways we can use that money within the original rules. There’s a lot of counties talking about if things didn’t change, if the rules didn’t change, they might not be able to spend what money had been allotted from that program. But they said this would be an approved purchase.”
Thursday’s meeting also marked the last monthly meeting for Whitely County Sheriff Todd Shelley before he is set to retire effective November 30. During the meeting, Shelley reported the sheriff’s department answered 1,179 complaints, had 93 criminal arrests, worked 45 motor vehicle collisions, and opened 35 criminal cases throughout the last month.
“Todd, we appreciate how good you’ve been for us to work with,” Judge White said to Sheriff Shelley, congratulating him on his retirement.
Shelley was joined in the meeting by Emergency Management Director Danny Moses, who is set to succeed him as the interim sheriff throughout Shelley’s remaining term. In preparing for Moses’ swearing-in ceremony scheduled for 2 p.m. on November 30 in the Whitley County Fiscal Courtroom, the court approved the sheriff’s December 2021 budget, the salary cap for the incoming sheriff, the sheriff’s policies and procedures, and the 2021 sheriff’s bonds.
The court also approved adding a section into its administrative code that White said was policy sent by Kentucky Association of Counties for the sheriff’s department’s use of body cameras previously approved for purchase during a special-called meeting last month. White said the policy was similar to other agencies around the state that also utilize body cameras. The cameras are expected to arrive sometime early next year.
In other news, the court:
-Approved a 2021-2022 salt agreement between the court and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet that allows the county to purchase 200 tons of salt in preparing for the winter months.
-Approved separate petitions adopting Sumner Lane, Barefoot Bottoms Road, and Kelsey Brooke Lane into the county’s road system.