The city of Boonville is doing its part to combat COVID-19 on a daily basis.
After a statewide stay at home order by Missouri Governor Mike Parson on April 6, Boonville City Administrator Kate Fjell said the city has mandated split shifts for its 86 employees.
Moving to split shifts temporarily will help keep city services operational, City Manager Kate Fjell said.
“If someone were to come down with an illness or test positive, or other people had to go in quarantine hopefully the office would still be able to remain open,” she said.
The city has not had to face that issue yet. Decisions will depend on advice from the Cooper County Public Health Center.
Parson’s executive order, which runs through April 24, dictates all non-essential employees must stay at home during this three week period.
The split shifts will continue into May but like everyone else, they are taking it day by day and week by week, Fjell said.
“We’ll see as we approach the end of April and where we are with the spread of COVID-19, and where we are with the governor’s stay at home order,” she said. “Whatever is happening with the Cooper County Public Health Center we’ll kind of go by that.”
If, by the end of may, stay-at-home orders are lifted, then the city will return to regular hours. The split shifts are referred to as “Team A” and “Team B.”
Fjell was first trying to cycle with payroll and council meetings. She was able to figure out the scheduling. Work weeks start on Wednesdays now, with Team A working Wednesday through Thursday, off the weekend, then Monday and Tuesday. Team B then works the Wednesday through Friday, weekend off, and Monday Tuesday.
"So it ends up being five days on and five days off,” Fjell said. “It’s just split by the weekend and again that just accommodates payroll and city council work.”
With approximately 40 employees working at a time, it impacts the bigger offices and the police department. Routine items are more difficult to accomplish, Fjell said.
“The police and fire departments didn’t have to adjust their shifts as much because of the way their hours are,” she said.
The police department work 12-hour shifts and the fire department 24. The city has to make sure the fire department is continuing to do their shifts and that it is diligent about cleaning during the shift.
“Our effort is to keep us from potentially cross contaminating or having multiple offices,” Fjell said.
The good news is that all city employees will be getting paid leave and still getting paid for 40 hours a week. Fjell said at this time that seemed like the fair thing to do.
But there is still the question as to how much revenue the city will lose during this time. It likely will have an impact on the city as sales tax reports are only available through February right now, Fjell said.
“It’s likely going to take a little bit to see what we’re losing and I fully anticipate there being conversations at the council level with how to address revenue in the coming months,” Fjell said.
The city’s fiscal year started April 1 and impacts will not likely be known until the city enters its second quarter.
There are limitations to doing split shifts. With the population a little over 8,000, Fjell said the departments are doing the best they can. The city pool, for example, usually has five employees preparing it for season. Due to split shifts, that number is now two or three. There are a lot of questions about when the pool will be open, as well.
Larger projects have taken a backseat for now because there is not enough staff.
“As far as department heads, we’re not all working on the same days so sometimes the transition is not as smooth as we would like it to be,” Fjell said.
The city does not want to close streets longer to do a project that can only have two people working on it instead of four or five, she said. So, the streets departmen is going to fill potholes while larger street repair projects will have to wait.
Even with smaller crews, department heads are doing a fantastic job of directing everyone and getting people where they need to be, Fjell said.
The city will also continue to watch the impact on people being able to pay their water bill and sanitation bills, especially for people who might be losing jobs.The city is continuing to investigate avenues to allow for that, Fjell said.
“We’re not shutting anyone’s water off so we’ll continue that,” she said.
City staff will have to look at some other bill pay policies to adjust for those who have lost income. They are researching what other communities have done.
The 10 people or fewer mandate from Parson is making things a little difficult with regard to city staff, but the split shifts are helping.
The police department has Team A cars and Team B cars so they are not mixed up. This arrangement is in case someone came down with COVID-19. Another person wouldn’t be getting in the car unexpectedly, she said.
“To the extent possible, we’re trying our best to keep our social distance,” Fjell said. “I know it’s not ideal and it’s not always possible, but we’re just trying to be as careful as we can, and luckily in the office themselves, we’re pretty spread out anyways.”
If and employee does contract the new coronavirus, the city will reach out to the health center to find out what needs to be done in terms of who would need to go in quarantine.
“I think we’ll just have that conversation with Melanie directly [if] it occurs,” Fjell said.
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