BAY MINETTE – Baldwin County deputies, jailers and support workers will get a hazardous duty pay raise during April to compensate for the dangers of dealing with potential COVID 19 infection.
The Baldwin County Commission voted unanimously Tuesday, April 7, to approve the increase to 1 ½ times the regular rate until April 30. The raise will be retroactive to the start of the current pay period on March 30.
Sheriff Huey “Hoss” Mack said deputies are already dealing with confirmed and possible cases of the coronavirus.
“Our front-line, our front-responders, first-responders are being exposed, but that’s what we do,” Mack told commissioners. “We are looking at and bringing to the discussion whether or not we should compensate them during this time.”
He said 279 Sheriff’s Office employees would receive the extra pay. County Juvenile Detention Center workers will also get hazardous duty pay according to the resolution.
Ron Cink, county budget director, said the increases will cost about $675,000 in April, but all or most of that expense should be eligible for federal emergency reimbursement.
Mack said that in addition to the danger of infection, deputies are also having to pay additional expenses, such as child care.
He said the department has to maintain a sustainable work force during the pandemic.
“We don’t need our deputies and our corrections officers to get sick,” Mack said. “We’re trying to keep them at work and we’re trying to keep them going.”
Mack said no employees have tested positive for the virus so far, but some have been exposed to patients who either are infected or could have COVID 19.
“Our deputies and corrections officers have had several exposures already, both to confirmed COVID 19 cases as well as suspicious 19 cases and as you know, if you have anybody that is symptomatic, you have to treat that as though they have the virus and most of the time, in fact, everybody in our staff that we have had tested so far all have tested negative,” he said. “Several were quarantined because of exposure.”
The sheriff said that since Gov. Kay Ivey issued orders directing all residents to stay at home, deputies have been called out to check violations of the restrictions.
“We have started to get a few more calls since the governor’s order now of stay at home and most of the time, we found the public to be compliant,” Mack said. “Some that are not and so we’re having to address that.”
Mack said deputies have also been called out when patients who were ordered to stay at home after testing positive for the disease have violated their quarantine directives.