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Council OKs $2 per hour hazard pay

LOCK HAVEN — Lock Haven City Council passed a resolution to pay essential employees an extra $2 an hour for on-site work. The decision came after about an hour of discussion.

The hazard pay took effect on April 20 with employees expected to receive compensation for hours worked on their jobsite from the time the state of emergency was placed on March 17.

Council spent a large portion of their Monday night meeting, held via livestream on YouTube, debating three parts of the resolution: when it would take effect, how much employees would be compensated and who would qualify for hazard pay.

The majority of council agreed compensation could begin when Mayor Joel Long issued the state of emergency on March 17 although Councilman Bill Mincer did suggest having the compensation begin on March 6, when Gov. Tom Wolf issued his state of emergency.

Councilman Douglas Byerly sided with Mincer but said he was still unsure of moving forward with hazard pay at this time.

Councilman Richard “Rick” Conklin also was unsure of whether he’d vote yes on the resolution but leaned toward the March 17 date.

Conklin was the first to suggest salary employees not be included in the hazard payments, citing his previous work in at UPMC Lock Haven.

“When we set aside disaster plans when I worked at the hospital the senior team was always separate,” he said.

Byerly and Mincer also agreed with Conklin.

Councilman Steve Stevenson felt all employees should be included in the compensation.

“I’m leaning toward everyone. They risk their lives too,” he said, suggesting they only receive the compensation for the hours they work on-site too.

City Manager Gregory Wilson told council the city’s finance department hadn’t been keeping track of the hours salary employees had been spending on-site but it could be possible to gather that data from March 17 to present and begin tracking hours going forward.

Councilman Richard Morris agreed with Stevenson.

“In other disaster scenarios it’s almost assumed a department head is to show up. This is not a typical emergency. If there is a requirement to forgo their safety we should not differentiate,” he said.

Long also sided with including all employees.

When it came to the amount to pay employees Stevenson switched his initial position of $2 an hour for $3. He made this suggestion after looking into other options, he said.

“I think it’s realistic,” he said.

Council woman Barb Masorti also agreed with with Stevenson but said she’d be willing to also side with $2 if the majority of council were inclined to pick that amount.

Both Conklin and Byerly were still wary of voting for the hazard pay but did say they would lean toward $2 an hour.

Conklin explained his opposition to the hazard pay, noting that many essential employees such as firefighters and police officers already place themselves in danger on a regular basis.

“I didn’t think we should be the first on board doing this if we haven’t had any requests from staff,” he said. “(Police) already have a job that puts them at risk. The same goes with firemen.”

Mincer refuted Conklin’s statement, saying that officers and firefighters are putting themselves and their families in more danger than before.

“Yes, the fire and police put themselves at risk but they don’t put their families at risk,” he said. “That’s where I’m at. I’m all for this. I do think they are at more risk. You can be asymptomatic and bring it back to others.”

Morris agreed with Mincer. “If you’re a fire man you know what risks you’re taking… but you cannot see this risk,” he said.

Byerly sided with Conklin, saying council should wait to pass the resolution when Gov. Wolf did so on a state level.

“I would just keep track of hours and wait until the governor does this,” he said.

A motion eventually was made by Mincer to pass the resolution with an extra $2 an hour given to all essential employees who must report to their physical location of work. The motion also included the start date for compensation at March 17 and an end date to be determined later by council.

It was seconded by Masorti and passed by a 6-1 vote with Conklin changing his initial stance and voting yes and Byerly the lone “no” vote.

Council will hold their next meeting on May 4 at 7 p.m. via livestream on their YouTube page City of Lock Haven.

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