by Calvin Ishee
Last Tuesday, the Pass Christian Mayor and Board of Alderman conducted their regular Board meeting via teleconference. A fairly routine meeting at the beginning, became more robust when Pass Christian Police Chief Daren Freeman, followed by Fire Chief Dwight Gordon introduced temporary hazard pay requests for all law enforcement officers and firefighters forced to work during the 2020 COVID19 crisis.
Before even hearing the proposal, Ward 2 Alderwoman Regina Charlot introduced a motion to table this issue stating, “I want to do it in a rational way, we need to know the numbers”. At-Large Alderman Kenny Torgeson replied with, “I’d like to hear what the Chief has to say.”
Chief Freeman rose and asked the Board to consider giving each officer hazard pay for the next two weeks at an estimated cost of $350 per officer, per pay period. He further stated that the estimated total cost would be approximately $6,300 and that there was almost $100,000 dollars available to him from past savings in his Department. Fire Chief Gordon stated that his estimate to pay firefighters hazard pay was a little over $8,000.
This ignited a calm yet tension filled discussion from all five Alderman as well as the Mayor. Ward 3 Alderman Anthony Hall passionately stated, “I believe our first responders should be compensated, if not now soon”. Ward 1 Alderman Buddy Clarke commented, “I’m skeptical of using City funds, need to work on federal funds”. Alderwoman Charlot repeated her need for additional information and expressed her “concern for long term funding”.
After a long discussion that included such options as approving the initial request and then dealing with it on a pay period by pay period basis and waiting on federal funding, the consensus of the Board was to table the matter until accurate numbers can be provided by City Clerk Marion Governor. Several questions remain, should those serving on the front line during this pandemic be awarded hazard pay and how should it be paid for? This will be a high topic of interest at the next Pass Christian Board of Alderman meeting.
The Board approved a Proclamation proclaiming April 2020 as National Sexual Assault Awareness month in the City of Pass Christian. The proclamation states the City’s critical concern for victims of sexual assault violence and a desire to support their needs for justice and healing. Other proclamations approved included a revised Proclamation Order by the Mayor to incorporate the Governor’s Shelter-In-Place Executive Order as well as a Proclamation declaring a local COVID19 emergency. Although the entire Proclamations can be found on the City’s website, it includes a Shelter-In-Place order, Suspension of Evictions, defined Essential and Non-Essential businesses, listed Essential and Prohibited Activities and mandates “social distancing”of at least six feet.
This Proclamation is scheduled to end on April 20, 2020, however it may or may not be extended accordingly.
Due to the COVID19 Virus, the Board approved temporary furloughing four employees from the Police Department, and one each from the Recreation Department, Senior Citizen Center, Water Department as well as the City Court. The Police Department was also given approval to hire Roland Flowers to fill a vacancy in patrol effective April 8, 2020.
Additionally, the Board approved appointing Dia’Mond Woodman from the Fire Department to be the City’s Applicant Agent for FEMA Assistance for COVID19. This gives him the authority to research, sign and submit official documents on the City’s behalf. He will receive training from Pass Christian City Attorney Malcolm Jones who will also monitor his work.
In financial matters, the Board ratified auto and equipment insurance renewals with Betz Rosetti and Associates in the amount of $71,662; approved commercial property insurance renewal in the amount of $117,975 also with Betz Rosetti and Associates; approved $3635 to purchase two gas detectors for the Fire Department; and Claims Docket expenses in the amount of $221,759.45