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Masks now required to enter government center

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Tax commissioner makes plea after majority of staff tests positive

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    Everyone who enters the Jones County Government Center will be required to wear a mask. Photo courtesy Anastasia Gepp via Pixabay.

The Jones County Board of Commissioners met for close to four hours for their August third Tuesday meeting by a video conference that was plagued by technology issues the entire time.

The meeting began with a 4 p.m. work session, and the following board meeting ended just before 8 p.m. Sound problems started at the beginning of the work session and seemed to take turns making it difficult to hear the commissioners who joined the meeting remotely.

Board Chairman Chris Weidner called the work session to order that dealt with employee issues beginning with retirement accounts and ending with a discussion about a GPS policy for county vehicles.

ACCG Retirement Services representative Greg Gease went over Jones County’s current retirement plan and gave an update on options. He explained that any changes in the plan would only affect new employees.

County Administrator Jason Rizner spoke to the board about changes needed to the county’s On-Call Policy dealing with issues that come about during weeks with holidays and went on to talk about problems wit comp time.

Rizner said the county’s policy for take home vehicles has been talked about several times over the years, but nothing has been done.

Weidner said it is about complying with IRS requirements.

“We’ve been doing it wrong for some time. We need to do it right,” he said.

The issue is that takehome cars must be included as income for employees, according to IRS requirements. The amount to be added is $1.50 for each one-way commute or $3 a day.

CFO LaVita Crutchfield said she first presented that information to the board in 2014.

The policy states vehicles used by on-call personnel for EMA, Public Works, Water, Building Maintenance and Animal Services departments are not included.

Commissioner Jonathan Pitts asked if it was best to park the other take-home vehicles, and that appeared to be the consensus of the board.

Commissioner Sam Kitchens said board members must make a decision if there were other vehicles that would be considered in the best interest of the county to be taken home.

“That would have to be a decision of the board,” he said.

Rizner said the GPS Policy needed to be adopted before the devices are installed in county vehicles. The policy includes violations that would be recorded by the devices and what would happen as a resul of the violations.

He said the vehicle would alert the driver when a violation occurs and allow time for the action causing the violation to be corrected.

The responsibility to monitor the GPS report and deal with the violations will be the responsibility of department heads.

The work session adjourned at 5:30 p.m. to enter into closed session.

Business meeting

The Aug. 18 meeting was called to order by Weidner at 6:08 p.m. The first item on the agenda was brought by Pitts, and it was a request to support a Patriots Day prayer service being held at 6:30 p.m., Sept. 10, in Carol’s Park. The event is called Cry Out America. The commissioner said prayer would be held for the community as a whole.

Commissioner Sam Kitchens presented a draft model of a zoning ordinance containing guidelines for the development of solar energy for consideration of the board. The model ordinance was the product of the Middle Georgia Clean Air Coalition’s executive board.

Zoning Officer Tim Pitroski suggested the better course of action for the county would be to start the amendment process to incorporate the guidelines into the county’s zoning ordinance.

After a discussion of the options to approve the draft model, Kitchens made a motion to begin the text amendment process. The motion was approved unanimously.

Rizner recommended the adoption of an agreement with Dr. Deborah Gadd for veterinary services that were previously supplied to the county by Dr. Berry Moore. The recommendation was made into a motion and unanimously approved by board members.

Commissioners also unanimously approved a proclamation declaring the month of September Suicide Prevention Awareness Month at the request of the Jones County Suicide Prevention Coalition.

Jones County’s Complete Count coordinator Joy Carr spoke to the commissioners about the status of Jones County in the 2020 Census. She said the map of the count is updated daily, and Jones County was at 62 percent.

Carr said she was notified Aug. 3 that the self-response date for the Census had been shortened to Sept. 30. She said door knocking by Census workers started Aug. 9, and materials are being circulated to remind everyone to respond and the importance of responding.

Carr said information was placed in backpacks distributed to students and with free lunches that were distributed this summer. That is in addition to public announcements on television, radio stations and information being distributed by businesses.

The administrator talked about CARES Act federal funding for Jones County. He said Jones County received $399,000 as soon as it signed up and the remainder of funds would be received as the county submits documentation.

Rizner said the county is eligible for $1.33 million in funding. He said all salaries for EMA and Jones County Sheriff Office employees are reimbursable, and the ACCG recommended sending the payroll information to meet the requirement.

COVID-19 response

One of the proposed uses for the CARES funding is bipolar ionization systems for air conditioning units at the Government Center and units at the Courthouse, Jones County Sheriff’s Office, Jones County Health Department, W.E. Knox Center, public works building, senior center, animal control building and water department building.

Weidner said the biggest challenge of the systems is finding someone to install them.

Kitchens made the motion to advertise for bids for the ionization systems, and the vote to approve was unanimous.

Rizner brought board members a recommendation to require masks for everyone who enters the Government Center. He said Tax Commissioner Brian Jackson sent an email to all board members stating the reason for his request.

The email stated that, of the six people in his office, four tested positive for COVID-19, and the office had to shut down for two weeks. He said the office is now trying to catch up with only one-third of its regular staff able to work.

Jackson’s concern was the public bringing the virus into the office again.

“I simply don’t want my staff getting sick again, and we cannot afford another shutdown,” he said. “The best science we have tells us to wear a mask to protect those with whom we come into contact.”

Rizner suggested making masks required and temperature checks for employees. He said the deputy at the front of the Government Center takes the temperatures of visitors, but employees come in the building before the deputy is there.

Weidner said he would like to see tracking that employees’ temperatures are taken.

Kitchens agreed.

County Attorney Ashley Brodie said, if the county puts a mask requirement in place, it needed to have masks to give to anyone without one. She added that no one could be stopped from going to the Elections Office or a polling place.

Pitts made the motion to require masks with the exception of the Elections Office and employee temperatures are to taken on a daily basis. The motion was approved unanimously.

Brodie said employees with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or more would be sent home, and Kitchens made that motion. It was approved unanimously, and the commissioner said he would forward board members a copy of the Department of Public Health guidelines.

Policies approved

Board members voted unanimously to approve the employee policies discussed in their previous work session. Those policies were the On Call Policy, Comp Time Policy, Take Home Vehicle Policy and the GPS Policy.

Rizner presented a request for repairs for the Bradley Wayside Auction Building. After a brief discussion, commissioners agreed that they would like to get rid of the property when the lease expires and had no interest in repairing the property.

The next meeting of the Board of Commissioners is scheduled for Sept. 8.