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Mayor, aldermen institute city hiring freeze, employees could be reassigned

The city of Vicksburg has instituted a 60-day hiring freeze and city employees may be asked to work other duties as the Board of Mayor and Aldermen prepare to deal with the loss of revenue because of the city’s COVID-19 shutdown.

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. announced the city’s plans after a more than 30-minute closed session at the start of the board’s Monday meeting. The board later emphasized the hiring freeze by tabling four proposed new hires on its consent agenda.

He said he will have a town hall meeting from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the employee policies. The meeting will be broadcast live on The Vicksburg Post’s Facebook page.

“We have looked at the revenue of the city and we have looked at the cost to the city going forward and we have come to the conclusion that we will no longer be able to hire any additional personnel going forward,” Flaggs said.

He said the city’s 412 employees were back at work Monday. He said police officers, firefighters, EMTs and paramedics are still receiving hazardous duty pay, which is at the rate of time-and-a-half.

Flaggs said the board is looking at the budget to see how the city’s workforce can best be used.

“We’re going to do everything we can that’s humanly possible to not lay off or furlough any employee,” he said. “It is no longer business as usual with the city of Vicksburg. No employee owns any position; you may be called on to work another position to protect or to keep your salary as close to intact as we possibly can.

“We are going to evaluate every retirement, every person who leaves here before we go forward with any (employment) decisions,” he said. “This board will act in conjunction with human resources and the department heads to make sure it is absolutely important to keep the position open.”

He said the board may have to revise or adopt a new personnel policy and guidelines “because social distancing (and) wearing masks may be a part of the norm for a while.”

Flaggs said 15-minute employee breaks will be required to be taken within the building and steps will be taken to limit public works employees’ exposure with other businesses while they are outside working.

“All this is in the best interest of our employees,” Flaggs said.

He said he will continue to discuss ways to reopen the city’s public sector, cautioning that the city’s civil emergency declaration may be extended.

“Any discussion in the past about opening things up next week, it may not happen,” he said. “Our first and foremost priority is the safety of our city, our employees and continue to not have service disrupted, and we’re going to do everything we possibly can to help to that extent.”

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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