City announces emergency staffing plan, public meeting changes

Published 2:18 pm Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Starting Monday, Vicksburg city officials will be operating under an eight-day emergency plan requiring city department heads to designate some workers as essential employees and staggering other workers’ schedules.

The emergency plan, which runs from Monday through March 31, was approved Wednesday by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said the board’s action involved health care concerns for the coronavirus, or COVID-19.

“It addresses the gravity of the situation,” he said.

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“This civil emergency declaration will limit the hours worked by non-essential city employees and allow us to use money from our $3 million reserve fund to respond to the needs of our community,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said.

“Although we haven’t had any confirmed cases here in Vicksburg or Warren County up to this point, we’re continuing to be proactive and limiting the potential spread of this virus in every way possible.”

He called the disease a serious matter. “I believe this is the most serious matter that ever hit this country, at least in my lifetime. We should take this as a serious matter.”

Flaggs hinted the board may have to reconsider its action at some point.

“We may have to make some drastic changes; this is not business as usual,” he said. “We want to try and make seven days and see what comes from the White House task force, the Governor’s Office and the (state) Department of Health before we take another step.”

He said the city has never taken a similar emergency plan.

“We’re doing it because I believe our employees are valuable to us and their families,” he said. “This is the first step. We may have to extend this or we may have to shut City Hall down, I don’t know. We will handle things on a case-by-case basis.”

All city division heads have designated essential and non-essential employees for their respective departments and a $500,000 personnel budget will be deducted from the $3 million reserve fund if needed.

Flaggs did not believe the city will have to use the emergency money, adding he believes the salaries could be handled through the existing fiscal 2020 budget.

The city’s Department of Finance and Administration will create a pay plan and credit all hours during the emergency work period in accordance with the following criteria:

  • All employees who have been designated essential are expected to report to work unless any COVID-19 symptoms or confirmed cases affect them or their household.
  • All employees designated non-essential may rotate work every two days if required by their supervisor.
  • Essential hourly employees will be paid time and a half for hours worked during this period.
  • Non-essential hourly employees who do not work will be paid regular time during this period. If non-essential employees work during this time period, they will be paid time and a half. There will be no exchange of hours worked by employees unless approved by the division head.
  • Salaried employees will be paid their regular salaries.

Meetings of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen should not include more than 10 people in the meeting room for the next 30 days.

The Mayor will determine which 10 people will be permitted to be present, with division heads and the deputy city clerk having priority.

An officer with the Vicksburg Police Department will escort people in and out as needed. Alternate viewing options include online streaming, VTV channels and the city’s training room with no more than 10 people.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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