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Springdale to research bonuses for city staff’s work during pandemic

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SPRINGDALE — City employees might get bonus pay for their work during the pandemic if the guidelines of the American Rescue Plan money will allow it.

The City Council on Monday directed city staff to research the possibility.

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The Council on Oct. 28 approved $675,000 for hazard pay for firefighters and police officers who continued their work with the public on the front lines during the covid-19 pandemic.

“I believe the rest of the city employees served the city and the public, too,” said Council member Brian Powell, who introduced the measure to the council working as a committee of the whole.

Powell proposed a $1,000 payment to eligible employees. The measure would exclude the city’s elected and appointed officials, he said.

The city has fewer than 200 employees, excluding the police and firefighters, said Colby Fulfer, the city’s chief of staff. He expected the total amount spent to be no more than $250,000.

The city received $10 million in rescue plan money.

Council member Jeff Watson asked how the city would determine which employees would get the bonus. Would both full-time and part-time employees? And what if they worked from home, he asked.

The federal government is very strict about how cities spend the money, Fulfer said.

Fulfer said it will take staff some time to determine whether the bonus payments will be allowed and who will get them. He said staff would have to comb through each of the city’s 20 departments.

“This will be a wadded-up knot that we are going to have to unwind carefully,” Fulfer said. “We don’t want to have to pay the money back out of the general fund.”

Rogers City Council members last week voted unanimously to spend $1.7 million in American Rescue Plan funds on bonuses for employees who worked through the covid-19 pandemic.

Civilian full-time employees will receive $1,500, and civilian part-time employees will receive $750. Police officers will receive a $3,000 bonus; firefighters will receive $1,000.

Rogers will receive $11.7 million from the American Rescue Plan, according to Mayor Greg Hines.

Mayor Doug Sprouse noted that the money Springdale designated for the police officers and firefighters was considered hazard pay because those men and women were exposed to the covid-19 virus.

“They had to be out, checking with the public, not knowing where people had been, or if they were sick,” Sprouse said. “They were at an added risk.”

Sprouse noted other city staff also continued their service with the public during the pandemic. “They were considered essential workers because we still had to serve residents,” he said.

He said the city implemented many measures to create a safe environment for its staff. Temperature screenings, social distancing during public meetings and the installation of partitions for office employees who met with the public were a few.

Sprouse said the city staff also worked hard to ensure all employees got paychecks even when the city offices closed in March 2020.

“And the pandemic is not over,” Powell said. “Individuals even now are serving the public and exposed to the virus.”

Council member Amelia Williams, who attended the meeting via Zoom, said, she wanted part-time workers included, as they are paid hourly and are not eligible for sick pay.

“And they lost some of their hours when we were shut down,” she said. “I feel their loss is greater.”

Council member Kevin Flores, who also attended via Zoom, said he hoped the money could be disbursed before Christmas.

Fulfer and Sprouse said it would take more time.

However, the hazard pay for police and fire will be disbursed before Christmas, Sprouse noted.

And the 2022 city budget will include some substantial pay raises for employees, he continued.

Next year’s budget has not yet been presented to the council.



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