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County health chief’s efforts appreciated and rewarded

LISBON — While the coronavirus has increased the amount of work and responsibilities at the Columbiana County General Health District, employees and the health commissioners have received merit pay recently.

During Wednesday’s meeting, the board approved merit pay for Wes Vins, the health commissioner after giving merit pay to health district employees in December.

The merit pay for Vins pays him up to $1,000 additional per pay beginning with the Jan. 31 pay period provided he continues to perform his duties to the expectations of the board of health.

Those expectations are listed as maintaining a positive public perception of the agency; maintaining positive relationships with public officials in the community, creation of education and training opportunities for agency staff and administration of the agency with a balanced budget and the funds available.

“I appreciate their confidence in me,” Vins said of the board, adding he has learned a lot working with them. “They are a great board to work for and truly a pleasure to work for this community and with this staff.”

Vins said board president Dr. Jack Amato wrote the merit pay performance expectations that will be followed. Additionally it notes similar performance merit benefits could be extended to other leadership staff should the board of health determine it to be appropriate. Amato was absent from Wednesday’s board meeting.

On Dec. 24, 20 employees of the health department received a one-time merit pay, which amounted to $2 per hour for their actual hours worked during the pandemic. While it totaled $51,200, Vins said it amounted to about $1,500 to $2,000 for most of the employees. Vins also received $3,680 in merit pay for 1,840 hours worked.

Six of the employees including Vins received $22,877 in compensatory time due to the long hours and weekends worked. Vins made $140,621 in 2020 which includes his hour wages, compensatory time and the one-time merit pay in December.

Vins said the employees have been going above and beyond to handle the additional work the virus has created, working nights and weekends and taking on new roles beyond what they were hired or trained to do.

“Our people have really performed so well,” Vins said. “I’m so proud of them.”

Even those who were not called upon to do COVID-19 related jobs in the department had to do extra work to help cover for those who did, according to Vins. Employees were called upon to make phones calls informing understandably emotional people they had been exposed to the virus. Employees worked with business owners who were balancing their concerns over possibly losing their business and helping keep people safe during a pandemic.

Vins said his employees often volunteered to help each other and never complained about working the weekends or holidays. The Journal received emails updating the case numbers on both Christmas and New Year’s Day.

“I think this community really respects hard work,” Vins said. “(The staff) didn’t do what they did for 10 months expecting a reward. They did it for their community.”

During Wednesday’s meeting, the board also approved contracts with Middleton Township Volunteer Fire and EMS Department and Northstar to have an ambulance at the county fairgrounds in case of a medical emergency. The ambulance contract will be $75 per hour.

Additionally, there was a contract with the Lisbon Police Department to provide security at $500 per day. Other contracts were approved with the Community Emergency Response Team and even a Crestview student, who will be helping to direct traffic and has volunteered for other events for the health department in the past.

Some of the additional expenses are being paid for with CARES Act money the department received to help offset the costs created by the coronavirus.

In other matters before the board:

— The department issued board orders against Nate Fisher, who still has not complied with requests for him to fix a septic nuisance on his Miller Road, Leetonia, property. Fisher had requested an extension to fix the problem and has not.

— Although inspections have been down last year due to the virus, Environmental director Lori Barnes said they have still managed to get to more than 80 percent of facilities and have been handling 100 percent of the complaints by those concerned about COVID-19 protocols not being followed. Barnes said the businesses in Columbiana County are really trying to do a good job.

djohnson@mojonews.com

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