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Supervisors OK ‘Emergency’ Telework, Building Fee Deferment

MADERA — In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Madera County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a new policy that will allow some County employees to telework — as long as “the quality and quantity of their work is not diminished.”

“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,” said a staff report outlining the policy.

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

The new telework policy is “not suitable for all employees and/or positions.”

The county administrative officer (CAO), the County’s top day-to-day manager, and director of human resources will determine which employees and positions are suitable for telework “on an emergency basis.”

Darin McCandless has been acting as interim CAO since Eric Fleming resigned in December 2020. An outside consulting firm is currently conducting a nationwide search for the County’s next top manager.

The County recently hire a new human resources director, Elba Gomez. She started her position February 18, just before the outbreak of the pandemic. 

Some of the criteria to be used to make the decision as to whether a County employee can telework:

  • The operational needs of the employee’s department and Madera County;
  • The potential for disruption to Madera County’s functions;
  • The degree of face-to-face interaction with other Madera County employees and the public that the employee’s position requires;
  • 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 and/or need for supervision.

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

Also at this week’s meeting, supervisors approved another emergency measure prompted by the pandemic: deferring permit fees for single family dwellings until the second half of 2020.

The new policy postpones payment until at least August 1, 2020 of permitting fees for the construction of a single family house.

“Have you been putting off building your dream home? The Madera County Community and Economic Development office is here to help,” said a post this week on the County’s Facebook page. “Starting today (April 23), all Single Family Dwelling Permit fees submitted until August 1, 2020 will be deferred until your final inspection. For further information please call (559) 675-7821.”

A typical single family dwelling permit costs approximately $3,000. Under the new policy, that fee will not be due until the project’s final inspection.

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

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

The permit fee deferment is a proactive attempt to try to avoid a repeat of the economic damage done during the 2008 Financial Crisis and Great Recession when County officials were forced to make major layoffs and deep budget cuts across all departments.

Under the new policy, staff estimates about $180,000 in fees from 60 new houses will be deferred from the 2019-20 fiscal year budget to the 2020-21 budget. The policy does not impact any other fees or charges collected at the building permit stage.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the board’s actions this week.

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