Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Library Board unanimously OKs sick employee support

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By HEATHER AUGUSTYN

As a result of increasing Covid cases in Porter County, the Westchester Public Library Board of Trustees met virtually on Thursday night and responded to Library Director Lisa Stamm’s report on the needs of library staff. Stamm told board members that she anticipates that as the winter cold and flu season approaches, and as Covid cases rise, her employees will need additional financial protection.

“We periodically have staff out-of-office because they may have been exposed, or they show symptoms that may be Covid-19, and some have now used all of their FFCRA time,” Stamm told the board. FFCRA, or the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, provides employers with funds to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. However, these funds are now depleted for many employees, said Stamm, so they “will use the WPL supplemental Employee Coronavirus Sick Time Temporary Policy if they have to miss for testing and/or recovery going forward.” However, that supplemental fund has run out now for two employees and Stamm says she wants to be prepared for others in the coming month. “What can I do? Where is my limit? If I can answer that question we can go on from there, day by day. People are getting sick or they’re getting sick a second time, or someone in their family gets sick. The first block of FFCRA has been depleted,” said Stamm.

Board member Drew Rhed responded, “I get trying to help everybody, but it’s almost putting the cart before the horse that we’re going to try to do something that the federal government or state government can’t doŃthat we’re going to pay people when the fund runs out. I get that this is a government job, but people don’t have that luxury in the real world and this is a very sensitive thing. I think four weeks, six weeks, where is this going to stop? It’s rough, but nobody in the real world outside of this library would have those benefits and I question should we be granting it.” Stamm pointed out that the budget for 2020 has already been budgeted for those salaries and that the impact so far has been “nominal” since only two employees have had to use the allocated supplemental funds.

Board member Abbe Trent disagreed with Rhed and said it is less about the existing culture and more about the culture the board and library should cultivate. “I propose we take a two week extension at a time. Allowing staff to not come to work is keeping the public healthy. These are extenuating circumstances and I believe that we need to think about what kind of a world do we want to live in. Our employees, are they suffering and stressed out? Or is this more of a teamwork mentality so we can pick up the slack when someone isn’t well. That’s the kind of environment we want to create, and I know you do too Lisa [Stamm]. So I’m in favor of extending this an additional two weeks at a time and play it by ear. And at this point it’s two people,” Trent said.

After further discussion, Rhed and other board members were convinced of the importance of supporting staff experiencing absence related to illness and unanimously passed Trent’s motion to extend the supplemental fund up to two weeks on a case-by-case basis if needed, if the FFCRA has been exhausted, through calendar year 2020. Board President Nick Tilden commented, “We’re not a great library because of our materials. We’re a great library because of our people. I think if we can afford it to the end of the budget year, I think that’s something we should continue to do.” Stamm was thankful for the decision. “The staff are very appreciative of your support, and I couldn’t be happier with them, how they flex and roll as needed. They are doing all they can do and they are so grateful and they are working so hard. Thank you, on behalf of them, and me,” she said.

In other business, Tom Kuhn of CSK Architects joined the meeting to discuss the proposal for needs assessment projects, including the Hageman branch roof and Thomas branch HVAC replacement. Kuhn’s proposal fees include the creation of highly-detailed architectural drawings that would be used throughout any construction or renovation. These plans come at a cost of $2,600 for the roof replacement and $68,500 for the HVAC with estimated costs of both projects to be in the range of $800,000. The board decided to table the decision until next month when they will readdress contracting for the plan. The decision to table was made due to urgent variables such as the pandemic, recent elections, and logistics and timing of the project. “Let’s take some time to think about it but make a concerted effort to make a decision because I don’t think time is our friend,” said Tilden.

 

Posted 11/13/2020

 
 
 
 

 

 

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