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Supervisors OK ‘Emergency’ Policies to Deal with Pandemic

MADERA — The COVID-19 pandemic is having a major impact on the County’s workforce, forcing many Madera County employees to work from home. As a result, the Madera County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday is expected to approve a new “Emergency Telework Policy.”

“The purpose of the Emergency Telework Policy is to ensure that essential Madera County functions continue to be performed at an alternative location during the disruption of normal operations,” according to a staff report given to supervisors in advance of this week’s regular board meeting.

The new policy, to be formally implemented department by department after a review by the county administrative officer and human resources director, is designed to support “employees’ ability to perform specific job duties without diminishing the quantity and quality of [their] work,” said the staff report.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, a number of County employees have already been working as much as possible from their homes, including the board of supervisors, most of whom have been participating in regular meeting via teleconferencing.

The Emergency Telework Policy, as outlined in the staff report, is “not suitable for all employees and/or positions. The Director of Human Resources has the discretion to determine the employees and positions who may telework on an emergency basis.

Since late last year, Madera County has been operating without a permanent county administrative officer (CAO), the top day-to-day manager of County operations and departments. Since former CAO Eric Fleming resigned in December 2020, interim CAO Darin McCandless has been overseeing County operations while an outside consulting firm is conducts a nationwide search for the next CAO.

The County did recently hire a new human resources director, Elba Gomez, who started her position February 18, just before the outbreak of the pandemic. According to the staff report, Gomez will have the “discretion” to determine the employees and positions who may telework on an emergency basis.

Criteria the HR director will utilize to make the decision is outlined in the new policy and includes:

  • The operational needs of the employee’s department and Madera County;
  • The potential for disruption to Madera County’s functions;
  • The ability of the employees to perform their specific job duties from a location separate from their Madera County worksite (“Alternate Worksite”) without diminishing the quantity or quality of the work performed;
  • The degree of face-to-face interaction with other Madera County employees and the public that the employee’s position requires;
  • The portability of the employee’s work;
  • The ability to create a functional, reliable, safe, and secure Alternate Worksite for the employee at a reasonable cost;
  • The risk factors associated with performing the employee’s job duties from a location separate from their Madera County Worksite;
  • The ability to measure the employee’s work performance from a location separate from their Madera County Worksite;
  • The employee’s supervisory responsibilities; 10. The employee’s need for supervision; 11. Other considerations deemed necessary and appropriate by the employee’s immediate supervisor, Department Head, and/or Director of Human Resources.

Employees approved for the new policy will have to formally acknowledge and agree that the new arrangement is “temporary” and subject to the discretion of County management.

Also at this week’s meeting, supervisors are expected to approve another new emergency measure prompted by the COVID-19 crisis: immediately implementing a deferment of single family dwelling permit fees.

The new policy, if OK’d, would remain in place until at least August 1, 2020.

“With the State of Emergency due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become increasingly difficult for builders and contractors and the economy in general,” said a memo prepared by County staff in advance of this week’s meeting. “Staff is seeking direction to be able to offer a deferral of single family dwelling permit fees prior to the final inspection.”

A typical single family dwelling permit costs approximately $3,000.

“It is assumed permits that are pulled between now and August 1, 2020 will be constructed and finaled prior to the end of the 2020-2021 fiscal year, therefore this action will not have an impact upon the Development Services Budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year,” the report said.

During March, the Building Division received 34 applications for single family dwellings. Between April 1 and 17 as the pandemic has spread, the County has received a total of seven single family dwelling applications.

Last month, the County’s finance director briefed supervisors on the initial economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on the County’s budget.

County officials are considering the fee deferment in an attempt to head off a repeat of the cycle of economic damage done to the County’s budget following the 2008 Financial Crisis and the Great Recession that followed. During that time, County officials were forced to make major layoffs and budget cuts across all departments.

“It is anticipated this action will result in the deferral of 60 single family dwelling permits during the 2019-2020 fiscal year,” the staff report stated. “Conservatively that would result in approximately $180,000 in fees deferred for payment from the 2019-2020 budget to the 2020-2021 budget.”

If approved by the board, the permit fee deferment would not affect or allow the deferral of any other fees or charges that are collected at the building permit stage.

 

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