The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors is giving its employees a financial shot in the arm, thanks to the American Rescue Plan Act.
Supervisors voted Monday to give county employees premium pay in an upcoming pay period to the tune of $1,000 for full-time employees and $500 for part-time employees. It is a one-time payment.
At a previous meeting the board earmarked $350,000 of its approximately $11 million ARPA allocation for premium pay.
County Administrator Jay Fisher estimated the county employs about 346 total people but noted that the number fluctuates. He said he wasn’t sure how many of those were part-time.
“Not every person who receives a paycheck from Lowndes County is a Lowndes County employee,” Fisher said. “We have some people who use our payroll function, for example the Lowndes County Port Authority uses our payroll, but (Port Director Will Sanders) is not an employee. We get paid back for his pay. There are other situations like that.”
Some part-time workers, such as the summer help at the Road Department, don’t qualify for the premium pay, either, Fisher said.
“The payment will be made under the revenue loss provisions of (ARPA),” Fisher said. During the COVID-19 pandemic “county employees worked under difficult conditions.”
Each employee will have to sign a contract in order to receive premium pay, he said.
“That is part of what we have to do to conform to both state law and ARPA regulations,” Fisher said. “We’re not paying them for past work, we’re paying them for future employment.”
District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders asked if employees hired in the future would get premium pay.
“It will be tied to employees in place the day we approve the resolution,” Fisher said.
District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith said he didn’t want the issue to “drag out.”
“This is time-sensitive,” Smith said.
Sanders said he, too, wanted to see the checks cut soon.
“You’ve got all these families whose children are starting back to school,” he said. “They need the money.”
Fisher said the checks would go out “as soon as possible,” but he couldn’t give a specific date.
The city of Columbus approved premium pay for its employees earlier this year. The city split the payment into two parts rather than opting for a lump sum.
Supervisors also voted to move ahead with the county’s redistricting plan.
Oxford-based Slaughter and Associates pitched a plan earlier this year, and that plan was tweaked slightly to keep the Steens voting precinct and volunteer fire department in District 1.
The first area to change is around East Emerald Estates in East Columbus, between Lehmberg Road in the east and Beech Street in the west, and Bennett Avenue and Cypress Street in the north and Alabama Street in the south. It will move from District 1 to District 4.
District 1 originally lost an area from the Luxapalila River north to Jemison Mill Road, Steens Road and Steens-Vernon Road, all of which were moving to District 3. The plan was changed so that District 1’s southern boundary became the Luxapalila River.
District 5 will absorb an area from District 2 that is bounded in the south by the Tombigbee River, to the east by Highway 45 and to the north by Waverly Ferry Road.
Finally, a small, northern portion of Moss Street, Shady Street, Waterworks Road and Johnson Street that was previously in District 2 will be moved into District 5.
Slaughter and Associates will work with Circuit Clerk Teresa Barksdale to determine is there will be any changes to polling places. Another public hearing will be set once the polling places are worked out.
Brian Jones is the local government reporter for Columbus and Lowndes County.
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