orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

February 5, 2014

Disaster Declaration costs county double

Dawn Burleigh
The Orange Leader

ORANGE — Icy weather causing a Disaster Declaration for Orange County is having lasting effects.

A disaster declaration called into question how to handle payroll for the hours the county departments and the courthouse were closed this past week.

According to the Orange County employees policy, an employee which is recalled shall be paid twice the regular rate of pay for all hours worked during the disaster.

The EM-200 Emergency Management policy defines essential personal as an Orange County employee whose job functions are critical to the performance of the employees department.

Orange County Judge Carl Thibodeaux called for a disaster declaration last week due to anticipated weather conditions affecting travel through out the region.

Thibodeaux said that the issue was not arriving to work that Tuesday, but the road conditions as county employees traveled home.

“I had to declare a Disaster Declaration to close the courthouse,” Thibodeaux said during the Monday afternoon Commissioners Court meeting.

Thibodeaux also said that it was not just for the safety of the employees of the county but also for citizens who were conducting business at the courthouse and other county offices.

“If they slipped and fell due to icy conditions, the county was liable,” Thibodeaux said.

Commissioners agreed and approved the double time payroll for the eight Road and Bridge employees called into work during the declaration as they sanded the roads and bridges throughout the county.

County Engineer Clark Slacum was told to call out a skeleton crew when he was called into the Emergency Operation Center during the declaration.

The question brought before the court concerned the Orange County Sheriff Office employees, as they were working a regular shift and no extra personnel was called in during the disaster.

“All non-essential personal stayed home,” Sheriff Keith Merritt said.

The court approved the paying of double time wages to those employees during the hours of the declaration.

“The courthouse reopened at 1 p.m. on Wednesday,” Thibodeaux said. “So it should be regular time after those hours. We need to pay the ones out in the field extra.”

Commissioner Pct. 4 Jody Crump voted against the payroll change.

“We need to rectify this policy,” Crump said. “We did not recall employees. To qualify for double time you have to be recalled.”

Commissioner Pct. 3 John Banken also said he did not agree with the policy.

“We need to call a workshop soon,” Banken said. “I do not agree with it, but we have to go by the policy.”

The policies in question was approved in 2006.