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Commissioners extend paid military leave for county employees to 17 days per year

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — During a “virtual meeting” on Monday, Rowan County commissioners extended the allotted paid military leave for county employees from 10 days to 17 days per year, effective immediately.

The proposal was brought by commissioner Mike Caskey, who works as a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer and serves in the Army National Guard. He recently finished a training assignment. Caskey said he wanted to provide relief for county employees and allow them to use more paid time off rather than using up all of their vacation days.

Rowan County’s current statute complies with the provisions in the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act of 1994, which protects employees in the National Guard and Armed Forces Reserves. Before extending, the county allowed full-time employees 10 days, or 80 hours, of paid military training leave per calendar year. Any military duty required beyond 10 days previously required taking accumulated vacation leave or leave without pay status.

Caskey said the extended leave wouldn’t affect him much as a commissioner, but he knows county employees who serve in the National Guard or the Reserves who often have to use all of their vacation days or work 10-12 days in a row to juggle their full-time job and military obligations. He said about five to six county employees are in the National Guard or the Reserves, and the limited paid time-off from the county affects those who work rotating shifts.

Caskey, for example, sometimes has to work third shift as an officer on the same weekend that he has to fulfill a National Guard drill obligation.

“It’s bad for the employee to work all night and then go to drill all day and then be off the next night; then have drill Sunday and go back to work on Sunday night.” Caskey said.

The “17 days” was determined because there are typically 24 drills conducted per year along with two weeks of training in the summertime, and 17 is half of the total 34 days of drill time required per year. The 17 days would allow military members employed with the county to use one day per month and a full week’s worth in the summer. However, those individuals are free to use the days as they please, Caskey said.

Though other counties in the state vary on the amount of paid military leave allotted for employees, the extension to 17 days allows for two more days than Gaston County. Cabarrus County allows for 12 days of paid leave, while Davidson and Iredell counties allow 10 work days with partial pay.

Commissioners Vice Chairman Jim Greene voices support for Caskey’s initiative, noting that using up all paid time off leaves little to no time for military members to spend time with their families. Greene said it’s important to remember both National Guard and Reserve members can be called upon as first responders at any time when the state or federal government deems it necessary.

Before the regular meeting, on Monday morning, the Rowan County personnel board met in closed session to move two contract employees from the Environmental Management department to part-time status. Both Gary Easter and Jean Young were hired part-time as soil site inspectors, with a salary of $30 an hour.

Other business at the meeting included:

  • The scheduling of a public hearing for the April 20 meeting to consider a tax incentive request for “Project Gauge.” The company behind “Project Gauge” seeks to acquire an existing employer’s facility in the county, retain 40 current employees at the facility and create 46 new jobs over the next four years. The company also estimates it will invest approximately $5.1 million in building improvements and new equipment.
  • Approval for a $20,000 grant to the Rowan County Department of Social Services’ Rowan One Church One Child Ministry organization. The funding will be used for children and teenagers in the county who are victims of trauma due to child neglect and abuse, or who are actively receiving child protective or foster care services from the county DSS.
  • Approval to amend the requirement in pretrial services of waiting at least 48 hours before releasing an inmate. The requested amendment is to allow for immediate release from the Rowan County Detention Center under pretrial if an inmate presents symptoms of COVID-19, caused by the coronavirus.
  • Approval to defer the 2019-20 payment for the Railwalk Pavilion via an extension of one fiscal year. In a memo from James Meacham, CEO of the tourism authority, the county tourism sector has reduced operating costs by 50% through reductions in labor costs, including wage reductions, halting contributions to retirement accounts, expenses reductions and furloughs in an effort to absorb short-term decreases in revenue.
  • An extension of the ground mounted solar energy system moratorium by another six months, effective April 7, due to the state of affairs with the COVID-19 pandemic. The moratorium was first enacted in December, and the board voted on March 16 to send the revised standards back to the Planning Board. By law, extending the moratorium requires a public comment period, and Ed Muire, the Planning Board director, said six citizens submitted comments via email, which serves as sufficient for public comment, according to county attorney Jay Dees.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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