Ask Us: Is SPD being reimbursed for help directing traffic at VA?

Published 12:31 am Monday, March 23, 2020

Editor’s note: Ask Us is a weekly feature published online Mondays and in print on Tuesdays. We’ll seek to answer your questions about items or trends in Rowan County. Have a question? Email it to askus@salisburypost.com.

SALISBURY — The Salisbury VA Health Care System started to screen all visitors for COVID-19 on March 9 in conjunction with federal orders for all VA centers. The slowing down of cars as they enter the facility has caused traffic to back up.

Police officers have been helping direct traffic. A reader asked: Are they being compensated for their time and work?

“Yes, the SPD is being reimbursed for our resources committed to the VA traffic control,” said Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes. “Officers are being paid directly by the VA for the time they are working.”

The officers helping with traffic control are doing so during off-duty time.

“It has not affected staffing levels of on-duty personnel,” Stokes said.

Stokes said that “this is not part of what would be a normal duty response to a traffic control.”

“We would not provide the traffic control to any entity that makes changes to their operations that causes a traffic burden,” he said.

For example, if a construction project caused delays, the company can’t get tax-funded police help for directing traffic.

“They either hire off-duty officers or provide traffic control themselves with flagmen,” he said. “That is an expense they incur by doing the project and should factor that into the cost.”

The Salisbury Police Department doesn’t have the capacity to provide that service with on-duty officers, Stokes said. So, the request from the VA came with an agreement for reimbursement and direct pay from the VA.

The first day police helped, there were seven officers and a supervisor that worked from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Stokes said. They weren’t sure how it was going to go.

“It was overwhelming at first,” he said.

However, the schedule changed to four officers and a supervisor working in two shifts a day. Now, there are even fewer, Stokes said.

“Less patients are coming on campus because of the virus-related reductions in services they are providing,” he said.

There is now one officer from 6:30-9:30 a.m.

The timeline for how long the help directing traffic will be needed is unclear at this time. It depends on the COVID-19 pandemic.

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