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COVID Bonuses For White Co Employees Fails In Split Vote

White County Commissioners for now will not provide a COVID bonus to all county employees after a 5-5 split decision vote Monday night.

County Commissioner Cain Rogers said the budget committee approved the one-time bonus.

“I like the idea of taking care of the folks right now,” Rogers said. “Inflation is rampant, and we’re still dealing with COVID. A lot of these folks have dealt with COVID. I kind of wanted to get this, get the bonus and be done with it.”

Commissioner TK Austin said he felt the proposed $3,000 for full-time workers and $1,500 for part-time was simply too much. Austin motioned to amend the resolution to half the bonuses, but the amendment failed 4-6.

“I was just trying to make something that I thought would pass,” Austin said. “That was basically my reasoning behind doing it was just trying to do the right thing and give a bonus. I just felt the other bonus was too much. They keep going on about the surrounding counties about what they give and what they got. There were some of the surrounding counties that only got $1,000. So, the fact they wanted $3,000 we were kind of meeting them half way in the middle.”

Commissioner Dillard Quick said personal comments made by some in the Sheriffs Department over the last month hurt employee chances.

“Before all these meetings and all these negative comments, I was for the $3,000 and the $1,500,” Quick said. “But when you get comments of a three percent raise a slap in the face and a five percent raise a slap in the face. I don’t think that is a slap in the face, but if you get a nickel on the hour then that’s a slap in the face.”

Commissioners discussed a desire to improve county salaries to make them more competitive with surrounding counties rather than relying on a one-time bonus. Quick said after the comments, he spoke with each county department asking for a preference on raises or bonuses.

“Most of the people want raises and that’s what we’re trying to do is close the bridge from us to other counties,” Quick said. “The consensus was the people I talked to said the Sheriff’s Department is not the one talking for us. We’re talking for ourselves. Tonight, that’s all I see, Sheriff’s Department people. With that being said this money is intended on trying to keep employees employed here instead of going places, and I feel like we should be trying to do that with long-term employees.”

After the vote, several in the Sheriffs Department officials expressed their displeasure.

Bobby Davenport said he was one of the workers that called the raises “a slap in the face.” Davenport said the bonus would be a “blessing.”

“And I’ll stand here again and I’ll tell you it’s a slap to my face,” Davenport said. “We get nothing compared to what other counties get, and we have to deal with the stuff that we have to deal with. I put my wife in the hospital because of COVID.”

Jonissa Horne said raises would take years to amount to the failed $3,000 and $1,500 bonuses. Horne said the office deserves bonuses instead.

“This bonus it would have made a huge difference,” Horne said. “It may not make a difference at the highway department. It may not make a difference at other county buildings where these people stay for years and years and years, but the people who were in here exposed to COVID every single day.”

Resident William Randolph said the county commission missed the opportunity to show appreciation for its employees.

“I understand what you are trying to do with the raises,” Davenport said. “Completely understand you are trying to be competitive with these other counties, but we’re not there. We’re not competitive. I’ve worked for other counties and then came back. The biggest issue that I have something was brought up about it being a matter of trust. You had an opportunity to show direct and immediate appreciation for your county employees and again, you failed us on that trust.”

The bonus idea will go back to the commissioner’s budget committee.

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