Phil Sims speaks at Commission - May 27

Marshall County Sheriff Phil Sims speaks during the Marshall County Commission's work session Wednesday, requesting his employees be given hazard pay. During the meeting, his request was unanimously approved.

Marshall County Sheriff’s Office employees are among the many men and women working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, putting their lives in increasing danger everyday.

In order to help compensate their sacrifice, the Marshall County Commission approved a one-time pay adjustment Wednesday morning to give sheriff’s office employees $400 in hazard pay for the last two months.

 “When this thing started, we were in unknown territory … we had to determine who was essential and who was non-essential,” Sheriff Phil Sims said as he requested the hazard pay Wednesday morning. “Well, my guys are pretty much deemed essential no matter what under that definition.

 “I couldn’t make the decision to let my guys go home and work if we had to,” he continued. “I didn’t have that flexibility. We’ve got people in jail, and we’ve got to maintain those.”

While many in other professions saw a decrease in activity, Sims said his office saw an increase — especially in domestic violence cases.

 “Our domestic violence calls dramatically increased,” he shared with the commission. “We had to make sure the jail was maintained properly and cleaned.”

To make matters even more difficult, Sims said he had several employees out of work due to the novel coronavirus.

 “I’ve got 83 employees and 50-plus deputies that are interacting with the public on a daily basis,” Sims said. “So there were times we had two or three, maybe four on administrative leave because they either had contact with somebody that tested positive, they had to go get tested, they had family members that tested positive and so forth. So we didn’t have that luxury of just staying home or nothing like that.”

Sims said nearly all employees were now back to work. Only three were at home due to COVID-19; he did not specify if they had tested positive for the virus. He said there are four corrections officer positions open.

Sims requested $200 per month for two months of service, equaling $400 for every employee — not only deputies, but corrections officers and the administrative staff as well.

 “They have to be there to keep our office going and to function,” he said.

In all, Sims said 82 employees would be eligible for hazard pay, totaling approximately $33,200. Sims said he would not be receiving hazard pay.

EMA Director Anita McBurnett said she believed the hazard pay appeared to be reimbursable under the CARES Act. Prior to the vote, Hutcheson said he believed the hazard pay should be approved regardless of the county’s ability to be reimbursed.

During the meeting, the hazard pay request was approved unanimously.

In other business related to the sheriff’s office and jail, the commission:

• Approved an increase in the sheriff’s office overtime budget by $14,998.35 using funds received for overtime reimbursement through “various programs.”

• Approved a request for an additional $25,000 from the General Fund for vehicle repair and maintenance. Sims said this expense would be factored into his department’s annual budget request moving forward.

• Approved change order No. 2 to the jail renovation with Cornerstone for repairs in Cell Block B for $1,750.

• Approved the ratification of an increase to a mold removal bid by $11,426.33 for a total of $159,426.33 to be paid from the Capital Improvement Fund.

• Approved the ratification of a purchase of lights from the Courthouse/Jail Fund in the amount of $14,128.

• Approved the ratification of a purchase of water heaters from the Capital Improvement Fund in the amount of $23,716.68.

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