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Bad weather policy wins aldermen OK

A wintry mess nearly a week ago left some city personnel out inthe cold and the possibility of more foul weather this week led toa special Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday to discuss the city’sinclement payment policy for city workers.

When city offices closed on noon Thursday, nonessential cityworkers were sent home early and essential city workers stayed tokeep the city running during a difficult time.

“When we closed early last time, there was some confusion on how totreat everyone fair,” said Mayor Les Bumgarner.

Before Tuesday, city officials’ decision on whether to payemployees sent home early due to inclement weather varied on acase-by-case basis, and how to compensate those essential workersthat had to work with the elements was left up toquestioning.

“I didn’t see the fairness of my guys throwing sand to eight atnight and not getting anything extra,” said Director or PublicWorks Steve Moreton.

However, effective February 1, city officials now have a policy tohelp guide them on how to pay employees when inclement weatherthreatens the safety of city workers.

The policy adopted Tuesday grants paid leave to employees sent homedue to inclement weather. The policy also states that essentialmunicipal employees are to be granted additional leave for workingduring any time in which nonessential municipal employees aregranted leave with pay.

Essential employees are determined by the mayor, public worksdirector and department heads and include police officers andfirefighters.

During Tuesday’s discussion, Ward Six Alderman David Phillipsraised concern over who would trigger the policy, leading to anaddition. Most aldermen agreed that there was a need for the policyto dictate when inclement weather becomes bad enough to warrant theclosing of offices and sending nonessential workers homeearly.

Aldermen threw out numerous ideas including the Brookhaven PoliceDepartment, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department, countysupervisors, civil defense and Mississippi Highway Patrol. Aldermenalso considered the possibility of watching the schools duringinclement weather, but finally decided that schools need to beextra cautious due to bus routes and children.

“Children are sometimes dismissed when adults maybe wouldn’t be,”said Ward Four Alderman Shirley Estes.

The aldermen finally agreed that multiple sources would be usedwhen deciding when to call it quits. Estes shared a story ofpreviously receiving some information from the Mississippi HighwayPatrol that led her to believe certain road conditions were safe,but she found the information was no longer accurate by the timeshe arrived at her destination.

“The information changes quickly,” said Bumgarner. “When you getenough good information, then it’s time.”

The final policy included the addition of stating that the mayorwill make the decision to implement the inclement weather policybased on reliable information from law enforcement and otherreliable sources as to the inclement weather conditions.

“Most people in leadership positions aren’t going to take thisdecision lightly,” said Bumgarner.

In addition to treating employees fairly, the policy allows cityofficials to keep safety a primary concern when handling inclementweather decisions and not payroll.

“The main reason we close the office is to protect the public, tokeep them from coming down here,” said Bumgarner.