LYONS — Wayne County Administrator Rick House said every one of his 25 departments is affected by the paid furloughs implemented this week, a move aimed at abiding by the governor’s directive to reduce staffing by 50 percent amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The reductions include House’s office. He’s losing his secretary.
On Tuesday, a subdued Board of Supervisors endorsed House’s plan unanimously. It will halve the county workforce on orders from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who, as part of his emergency powers, charged county managers and administrators with the task of reducing their respective workforces by 50 percent as a way to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
House said many in-house services will be suspended, such as pistol permits, which will be accepted by mail only. Others will be modified, like the Department of Motor Vehicles, which is requiring appointments.
“Virtually every department got hit, and we had to scale back,” House said. “They can expect reduced services. There will be inconveniences. We’ve got to minimize that contact (with the public).”
Some departments are closed temporarily, including Tourism and Economic Development and Planning.
However, House emphasized the following: “There are operations the county can’t shut down.”
They include the nursing home, the sheriff’s office and Social Services. The sheriff’s office and Social Services did have furloughs, while the nursing home did not, House noted. In fact, House said there is actually a staffing shortage at the nursing home.
House, Board of Supervisors Chairman Ken Miller of Palmyra and other officials started working on the furlough plan last week after receiving Cuomo’s directive.
“It was a long weekend,” House remarked.
Miller praised House during Tuesday’s sparsely attended meeting.
“I want to thank the county administrator for getting this together,” Miller said. “There was a lot of effort by everyone. Hopefully, this will keep us ahead of the curve.”
Under House’s board-endorsed plan, all furloughed workers will be paid through March 31. That date, said House, could be extended by Cuomo if the governor deems it necessary.
Those that are required to work will get additional leave time equal to the number of hours worked, for a maximum of 10 days of additional leave. After that, they will then receive one hour of pay for each hour of regular time worked.
According to the plan, employees who test positive for COVID-19 and who are under quarantine will not be charged sick leave.
Elected officials are excluded from the policy.
“Our goal right now is to reduce exposure to employees,” Miller said.
House said he worked with respective unions on the measure and emphasized that the furlough plan remains fluid.
“We’re still working on it,” House said, “but now we have met a majority of the goals of the reduction.”
The resolution passed by supervisors was not required, House noted.
“I had the authority to do this,” he said, adding that it was important to him that supervisors sign off.
At the meeting, which featured just a small number of department heads in attendance — along with elected officials such as County Clerk Mike Jankowski and Patrick Schmidt — supervisors focused on the business at hand. The monthly proclamations that are a hallmark of Wayne County supervisor meetings were dropped.
“I think we’re on some uncharted ground here,” Miller said.
More information on what county services will be available during the furlough period are forthcoming, said House.
While protesters opposed to the proposed Butler sludge-composting project walked with signs in the damp weather outside, a sign on the county courthouse door informed anyone with COVID-19 symptoms not to enter.