Spencer authorizes COVID-19 sick leave for vaccinated employees

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 16, 2021

SPENCER — The Spencer Board of Alderman on Tuesday night adopted a resolution extending additional sick leave time to vaccinated full-time employees who miss work due to COVID-19.

The unanimously approved measure is intended to incentivize employees to get vaccinated and offer some security to those who test positive despite being inoculated. Partially vaccinated full-time employees are entitled to one week of paid sick leave while fully vaccinated people are entitled to two. People who are exempted by a doctor also qualify.

Spencer Mayor Jonathan Williams said this is an unusual circumstance where many people are required to quarantine or stay home for two weeks after testing positive. He said the additional leave is a good way to incentivize people to get vaccinated, but he does not want to force people get the shot.

Alderman Sam Morgan said society will never be rid of COVID-19

“This thing is never going away,” Morgan said. “It will be with us until we croak.”

Alderman Bob Bish expressed his concern the leave could be taken advantage of. The program requires showing proof of a positive COVID-19 test for the employee or a family member, but it also includes employees with a known exposure seeking diagnosis.

Williams mentioned adding being quarantined by health authorities to qualify for sick leave because that is out of the control of the employees. Ultimately, the town modified the requirements to being vaccinated, awaiting test results or having tested positive.

Bish expressed concern for unvaccinated employees who may test positive as well. Alderman Sharon Hovis, drawing on her military experience, said people enlisted in the military knowing they would receive a litany of vaccinations as a result.

Hovis pointed out taxpayers fund town positions and questioned the idea of paying someone who is unvaccinated to miss work when that person could have gotten vaccinated and reduced their risk.

“If you choose to work in Spencer, better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it,” Hovis said.

The decision to extend some sick time to employees who are partially vaccinated was made on the recommendation of town attorney Jay Dees. Williams said he knows people who have contracted COVID-19 who were in the process of getting fully vaccinated.

In other news from the meeting:

• Town Projects Manager Joe Morris spoke to the board about grant opportunities for the upcoming Yadkin River trailhead project.

The town has more than $380,000 of the $550,000 needed for the project on hand to cover the first to phases. Morris told the board there are grant opportunities through Carolina Thread Trail, the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and the Salisbury-Rowan Community Foundation.

If the town is successful pursuing the grants, Morris said Spencer could eventually have a funding gap for the entire project of $13,000 or less. The initial plan for the project was to build it in individual phases. The board approved proceeding with applications for the grants.

• The board declared a home on South Iredell Street a public nuisance and gave the owner 30 days to finish cleaning the site before the town moves to remediate the issue and bill for the labor. The home has been linked to a rat infestation.

The town’s code enforcement officer, James Osborne, has been working with the owner and told the board he is making progress on the property. The board could have told town staff to remedy the issue immediately, but it opted give the owner time.

• The board instructed Dees to draft a nondiscrimination ordinance to the town that would include protections expanded from state and federal requirements, including protection from discrimination based on hair styles and textures.