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Mingo Council talks virus concerns

MINGO JUNCTION – The ongoing pandemic continues to create challenges for Mingo Junction.

With the expiration of federal legislation at the end of December, 2021 is starting off with a big challenge for village council — the village needs to form its own policy on COVID-related sick leave.

The Families First Coronavirus Relief Act, which set guidelines for COVID-related sick leave when an individual had tested positive or was in quarantine, expired on Dec. 31.

It was noted by council members that the recent stimulus bill passed by Congress, to their knowledge, did not extend the act.

Village Administrator Bob Smith put together a draft policy with his suggestions for council to consider before the next meeting on Jan. 26.

It was also noted that in the two weeks before the next meeting, there could be more guidance from the county, state or federal levels.

He noted that making policy is up to council, all he can do is enforce what they choose to enact, and his draft is simply some of his suggestions or options for them to consider.

“Anything we can do to help our employees, we want to do,” Smith said, noting the challenge is figuring what can be done.

“You have to write the policy, this is just me giving you something to start with.”

Smith told council he has been in contact with county officials about the matter and will remain so.

The topic came up again in the report from fire Chief Brandon Montgomery, who informed council that one of his part-time employees is currently off positive for the virus, and he is not sure how to handle paying the individual.

Members of council and village solicitor Ernest Wilson discussed several options, including advancing vacation time, but it was stressed any decision will set a precedent for the rest of the village going forward.

“It’s important we make the correct decision, a well-informed decision,” councilman Adam Peeler said. “What we do this time sets the precedent.”

Wilson recommended Montgomery, acting police Chief Willie McKenzie and other department heads urge their employees to hang on to vacation time and personal days in case they need them for time off due to the virus.

“I think at this point it’s important for employees to realize to protect yourself a little bit,” Wilson said.

Also during his report, Montgomery told council that out of 25 fire department employees, just seven opted to get the first round of coronavirus vaccine.

He also told council that the virus is currently affecting the village population and creating issues for people even after they have recovered from the virus.

“COVID is in town,” Montgomery said. “It is hitting our elderly population. Once they are post-COVID, we are seeing a lot of strokes, blood clots, (pulmonary embolisms), cardiac problems where they have had no cardiac history at all. COVID is taking a toll. Besides COVID itself, there are factors behind it now we are seeing.”

He said that in 2020, the fire department went on 1,008 calls.

Council approved its first ordinance of the new year, ordinance 2021-1, approving temporary appropriations for the village to operate until a final budget is passed.

Council also discussed potentially improving some of the parks in the village this upcoming spring and summer.

A village resident appeared to discuss an ongoing billing dispute she has with the water department. She provided a sheet with information for council to view, and mayor Ed Fithen said he would talk to the water department about the matter and get back to her.

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