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Relief efforts turn full-time

WINDSOR – Several former disaster relief workers who performed various duties across Bertie and Martin County have started 2018 on firmer footing. Some have been offered permanent positions by the counties.

At their December meeting, the Bertie County Board of Commissioners approved transferring a number of the temp workers to new positions in various county departments. The costs of creating these new positions will be absorbed within the various budgets of the county departments and partially offset by NCWorks on-the-job training worker training funds.

Following Hurricane Matthew in October 2017, Bertie, Hertford and Martin counties participated in the Disaster Relief-Recovery Employment program. The program was part of a statewide initiative that provided temporary jobs to North Carolinians who had become unemployed – temporarily or permanently – as a result of a natural disaster. The purpose of the jobs was to assist local recovery efforts through clean up and repair of facilities, and humanitarian assistance in those counties most impacted by the disaster.

Though there were various types of jobs supporting the ideals of disaster relief and recovery cleanup, individuals who participated were also aware these were not permanent or full-time positions, but rather ones that lasted only as long as clean-up and repair was needed in those counties involved.

On hand at the Bertie Commissioners meeting to discuss the recommendations for permanent employment were two representatives with the Choanoke Area Development Association (CADA): Olivia Taylor of the NC Works Career Center, and Career Advisor Veronica Clark.

Bertie County Manager Scott Sauer introduced Taylor and Clark and discussed the full-time positions in the various departments (Water, Maintenance, Cooperative Extension, Aging) being recommended for approval by the Commissioners.

“About a month ago there were nine grant-funded CADA workers who did an outstanding job for the county,” Sauer said. “But sometimes you can’t get everything you want due to funding limitations.”

Sauer said there were some nine positions he felt could be filled, among them: a shared office assistant’s post with both the Bertie County Maintenance Director’s office and the Council on Aging; a maintenance workers position with Director Anthony Rascoe’s office; and a field technician to assist county Water Department Supervisor Ricky Spivey.

“I’ve reviewed these with the (Bertie County) Finance Office and I believe we can absorb the costs of filling these positions within the current budget,” Sauer stated.

Commissioner John Trent then made a motion the Commissioners approve the recommendation, seconded by Commissioner Ronald “Ron” Wesson.

During discussion, Commissioner Tammy Lee asked if the county was absorbing the entire cost of the new positions.

“I only ask it to see if there’s a way to save the county some money,” she explained.

The County Manager explained that the CADA representatives had prepared contracts stating that for the first two months, up to 50 percent of the salaries would be reimbursed through CADA’s NCWorks on-the-job training (OJT) program.

“We think with that and other savings we can find within the various departments we would be able to absorb that,” Sauer asserted.

Wesson complimented Sauer’s work on filling the positions and pointed out support for these jobs has come from across the county.

“These folks have worked tirelessly not knowing if this would be a long-term assignment for them, and they’ve dedicated themselves and done some outstanding work,” he related.

Wesson mentioned that earlier in December, several of the temp workers braved the rains at the Senior Center to serve meals to some 300 attendees.

“Not a bad word,” he noted. “They represented the county extremely well. Anytime we have a chance to put our citizens to work for our folks in the county then we need to take advantage of it.”

Commissioner Stewart White complimented the workers for their clean-up projects on the county’s roadways.

“Those orange bags on the side of the road are such a big help,” White mentioned.

Trent echoed the various compliments, saying it was an obligation to the county to do this.

“We have been moving on this as a Board since day-one,” Trent noted.

The motion was clarified to state at first the county would officially hire the workers to the permanent positions on an OJT basis before their salaries would then become the full responsibility of the county.

The motion passed unanimously and the Board thanked Taylor and Clark for their efforts, and asked for them to extend a welcome to those newest members of the county’s workforce.