By Stan Welch
Pelzer Town Council, town employees and the town attorney gathered Tuesday night to continue construction of the newly formed town government. The main element discussed, debated and tweaked was the town’s employee handbook, which establishes many of the town’s policies.
The basis for the handbook was taken verbatim from the sample provided by the Municipal Association of South Carolina (MASC). Much of that sample is in compliance with appropriate state and federal laws, such as the Family Medical Leave Act.
Aside from the legal requirements imposed by federal and state laws, the Council tailored several aspects of the employment policies that the town is entertaining. The rough draft crafted Tuesday night will be proposed as a resolution at the November Council meeting.
Town Attorney Jimmy King advised the Council on several occasions that adopting policies that they might have experienced while working at larger corporations might not be the best approach for a town that currently has just three full time employees. One of those discussions revolved around whether the probation period for new employees should be ninety days or six months.
Related issues,such as when a new hire could get uniforms and boots, as well as sick leave and vacation time, quickly followed. The recent hiring of Will Byrd to replace John Roache, who left under somewhat confused circumstances apparently related to his military obligation, exacerbated the matter. It was decided that Byrd would be subject to the existing conditions, since his hiring preceded the proposed changes.
The decision was made that work boots could be provided immediately. As King opined, “If you trust them enough to give them a job, you should trust them enough to buy them a pair of boots to be properly equipped.”
The twelve sick days the Council agreed upon would be available after ninety days, but any sick days unused would be lost at the end of the year. The probation period will be of six months duration, with an employee evaluation after ninety days, and again at the end of the probationary period.
Councilman Roger Scott supported the six month period, but agreed that boots should be provided upon employment. He also stated that no two employees should be allowed to schedule their vacations at the same time. “We simply can’t function with only one employee for a week.” One week of vacation time will be available after a year of employment.
Other policies put in place deal with nepotism, which prohibits the hiring of family members. In the event of inclement weather, such as ice storms, the town will follow the policy of School District One. If they are closed, the town will be closed. Standard policies governing use of town computers and internet access, as well as town vehicles, were proposed.
The town currently pays fifty per cent of the health care insurance costs for the employees, and will continue to do so. The town contributes to the employees’ retirement in accordance with the prescribed government formulas. The employees can have access to 401k accounts, but the town makes no contribution to those.
New hires will have to undergo an initial drug test, and will be subject to random drug tests as well. Any accident while on the job will also result in a drug test.
The Council also briefly discussed some zoning issues, such as the practice of allowing campers to be used as human habitation. Town attorney Jimmy King pointed out that there are a number of issues that need to be addressed, but he pointed out that all the ordinances in the world are useless if there is no means of enforcement . That brought the matter full circle to the issue of establishing a police presence.
The decision by the Council concerning a proposed agreement with West Pelzer to contract for police service has yet to be finalized.