First responders asking Fairfield Co. Council to change employee bonus ordinance

Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 8:07 PM EDT
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WINNSBORO, S.C. (WIS) - The Fairfield County Council is moving on an ordinance that would create federally funded bonuses for county employees.

First responders argue the risks they took during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic are being ignored.

On Monday, the council approved the second reading of an ordinance that would distribute $1.5 million of American Rescue Plan funds the county has received.

  • $460,000 to provide a bonus to active County employees;
  • $500,000 to repair the roof on the Department of Health and Human Services building;
  • $350,000 for a Community Mini Park on Overlook Road, Blackstock SC.
  • $150,000 for upgrades to Willie Lee Robinson Park, 17460 Newberry Road, Blair SC 29015.
  • $75,000 to provide funding for the Project Manager position in the Economic Development Department;
  • $30,000 to repair a fire truck engine; and
  • $8,000 to the Communities in Schools program to enhance participation.

In total, the county is slated to receive more than $4.3 million from the federal aid package.

The second reading approval vote came down to a 4 to 3 margin after community members and local first responders urged the council to reconsider the ordinance and move more money toward the essential workers.

As written now, the bonuses would be decided by level of employment.

  • Full Time employees - a one-time payment of $1,200; ]
  • Part Time employees - a one-time payment of $600;
  • Employees employed on a Temporary or As Needed basis - a one-time payment of $200

Fairfield County Coroner Chris Hill was one of the speakers, and in an interview with WIS on Tuesday asked for a scaled system for the bonuses based on risk level.

He said all employees have earned a bonus, but the dangers posed to first responders should be compensated for.

Columbia and Richland County both implemented risk-based bonuses for their employees.

“Not one time did we say we’re better [than other employees] than anybody in the county. Everybody in the county can get it. This money right here is basically Fairfield County money. It ain’t Chris Hill going to do what he wants to with the money, no. Take care of the people who take care of you,” he said.

Council Chair Moses Bell voted to move forward with the ordinance without changes on Monday.

He said the council is supportive of all the county’s workforce and said employees across the county faced risks.

“There is no work that is insignificant, and I want you to understand that piece. There’s no work that’s insignificant,” he said.

In the meeting Monday, the council determined that its members would be considered full-time and be given the $1,200.

Bell said this is not a conflict of interest because the council is voting on the entire ordinance.

“Please don’t look at it like that, look at it this way, we did all county full-time employees. County council is considered a full-time employee, just as the sheriff is, just as the coroner is, just as the probate judge, just as the treasurer,” he said.

Hill said he was not aware of the council’s eligibility for the funds.

He said it “left a bad taste” in his mouth.

The third and final reading of the ordinance is expected to be held on Nov. 8 at the Fairfield Co. Council meeting.

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