Council May Reopen Grant Window

Days Lost to Weather Also Get Second Look

WINNSBORO – In a work session that spanned more than two hours Tuesday night, County Council weighed the pros and cons of revisiting the County’s inclement weather policy as well as an extension of the application deadline for community grants. Both items surfaced at Council’s Sept. 8 meeting, prompting Chairman David Ferguson (District 5) to call for the special session.

Grants

The grant question came to the forefront after Council doled out the funds during the Sept. 8 meeting and found that, collectively, $6,000 was left on the table. Council’s revised policy on the discretionary spending allocates $2,500 for each district and established a rigorous set of criteria for applicants. After Council’s Sept. 8 vote, four of the seven districts still had significant funds remaining ($2,000 in District 1; $1,500 in District 3; $1,500 in District 4; $1,000 in District 6).

Councilman Kamau Marcharia (District 4) suggested after the vote that the roughly one-month application window under the new policy was too brief and Tuesday night he reiterated that position and added that he felt Council members should be involved early in the application process. Under the new policy, applications are submitted to administrative staff and then recommended by the Administrator to the entire Council for a vote.

“Council member involvement is kind of what, in part, brought us to this redefining of the discretionary (spending) to ‘community enhancement grant’,” Interim Administrator Milton Pope said, addressing Marcharia’s concerns. “The process was developed to limit Council member involvement on the front end of the process where the public would see it as very transparent and not someone getting favor over someone else. . . . In some ways it was on purpose to exclude any involvement on the front end where people wouldn’t think the process was fixed.”

Councilwoman Mary Lynn Kinley (District 6) suggested extending the application window for an additional 30 days, she said, to give more organizations ample time to seek funding. Vice Chairman Dwayne Perry (District 1) suggested a 60-day extension. Pope and staff will review the process and bring the matter back to Council for a vote at Monday night’s meeting.

Snow Days

The debate over if and how to revise the County’s policy regarding inclement weather, as well as whether or not to reinstate leave days used by employees this summer when a busted air conditioner forced the County Courthouse to close up shop for three days, was far more complicated and drawn out.

The current policy, adopted in 2011, requires employees to burn vacation or sick-leave days if foul weather shuts down the County.

“It’s my opinion that if Council or the County Administrator tells somebody not to come to work or tells people to stay home, we should not dock that person for staying home,” Councilman David Brown (District 7) said. “I’m thinking that in the past 365 days our employees have been docked nine days for one reason or another that was an administrative call, and that’s like losing half a month.”

Brown’s sentiments were shared by Councilwoman Carolyn Robinson. While Perry said he could see both side of the issue, he added that “If we as a government can’t keep (the Courthouse) open, it’s not the employees’ fault.”

Council eventually elected to separate the two issues – reinstating the leave days used by Courthouse employees and revisiting the weather policy – and will bring the reinstatement of the Courthouse days to the floor on Monday evening.

The weather policy issue was clouded somewhat when Ferguson told Council that if a vote to pay employees for weather days came to the floor Monday, he would immediately follow that with a motion to give the County’s emergency workers, who have to work regardless of the weather, an additional day’s pay for working those days.

Council eventually chose to send the policy review back to another work session before bringing the matter to a regular meeting.