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County Handbook changes approved

WINDSOR – The Bertie County Board of Commissioners voted to approve the county’s Emergency Management Services Handbook and Standard Operating Guidelines after changes in the form of amendments were made to assure there would not be conflicts with the county’s Employee Personnel Policy.

County EMS Director Mitch Cooper and EMS Division Chief Matt Leicester appeared before the board on Nov. 17 with copies they presented to the Commissioners that included the changes.

“We’ve been to the (County) Attorney’s office and gone through the entire thing and tonight we’re asking for your approval to put this into full swing,” Cooper requested, as he then asked for questions and concerns over the revisions.

County Attorney Lloyd Smith pointed out a conflict that existed between the EMS Handbook and the County Personnel Policy guidelines.

“What we’re suggesting is if there is a conflict,” Smith stated, “then I (recommend) the EMS Handbook control (it), because the personnel handbook for Emergency Management is much, much stricter.”

Smith outlined that the EMS directors and his office had spent quite a large amount of time going over the language for clarity.

“We probably looked at every one in the state and we sat down and honestly went through it page-by-page toughening it up and questioning where we were as a zero-tolerance policy for any use of any controlled substance, or any alcohol, and the termination policy for that,” Smith cited.

“When you’re dealing with the health and safety of the public, and Scott (Sauer, Bertie County Manager) was there and we agreed that the liability aspect and protection of the public needs to be toughened; and if you want to go through and do likewise with the County Handbook, then that’s something you might want to entertain for the future,” Smith added.

Smith said that while not recommending amendments to the current County Employee Handbook that if the board should entertain changes, he felt that in these times there should be consideration of changes to reflect a policy regarding sexual harassment, use of alcohol, and controlled substances.

“I’m not suggesting there is any sexual harassment, but particularly we’re pretty weak on that,” Smith said. “This policy is particularly strong on that.”

Commissioner John Trent asked for a comparison of the two policy manuals and whether notes had been made on each.

“Yes, sir,” Smith related. “We’ve compared the two and we made no changes in the county policy because we weren’t asked to.  I had concerns because the county policy is less strict than this (EMS) one.”

The County Attorney’s Amendment to the existing Bertie County Personnel Policy Handbook reads:

–       “Because of the importance to the welfare and safety of the citizens of Bertie County arising from the services rendered by Emergency Services Personnel of Bertie County, all Emergency Services Personnel employed by Bertie County will be subject to the provisions of the Emergency Personnel Handbook And Standard Operating Guidelines of 2014 adopted by the Bertie County Commissioners on November 17, 2014 and thereafter as amended from time to time. In the event of a conflict between the provisions of this handbook and said Emergency Services Personnel Handbook, the provisions of the Emergency Services Personnel Handbook will control the employment of Bertie County Emergency Services Personnel.”

“So you’re saying if we adopt this statement we’re covered,” asked Trent.

“You’re covered,” answered Smith.

“That’s what I was waiting for you to say,” said Trent.

Commissioner Ronald D. “Ron” Wesson complimented the CountyAttorney and the EMS Department for their work on the new, clearer policy.

“I would recommend,” Wesson stated, “and I’ll put it in the form of a motion, that we approve, with the amendment, the EMS and County Handbooks.

The motion was seconded by Trent and unanimously approved by the Board of Commissioners.