DAPHNE – City firefighters and police, including dispatchers, will get extra pay and residents some financial relief to deal with the effects of the COVID 19 outbreak, following action by the Daphne City Council.
The council voted April 6 to approve an extra $3 an hour in coronavirus hazard pay for city first responders. The raise would be in effect for four weeks.
The money would go to police officers, jail corrections officers and non-civilian Fire Department personnel as compensation for having to having to deal with situations involving residents who might be infected with COVID 19.
The resolution also calls for a one-time payment of $250 to all public safety personnel, including dispatchers.
The council also voted to suspend city garbage fees for three months to help residents who might be affected by the financial effects of the outbreak. Cancelling the fees for three months would cost the city $388,500, according to city estimates.
Mayor Dane Haygood said the plan is intended to put money back into the economy.
“We have a number of businesses that have shut down or have heavily reduced hours, employees that have been laid off, just last week’s numbers in Baldwin County alone we had 4,683 individuals file for unemployment. In the prior week, the week ending March 21, it was only 500 and I’ll think you’ll see numbers similar to that continue with the next unemployment report that comes out,” Haygood said.
During the discussion of the resolution, some council members questioned the timing of the suspension of garbage fees. Council President Robin LeJeune said the money might be more needed in several months if the outbreak continues into the summer.
“My concern is that we do this now for these first three months, but if this continues to go on, you have a lot of businesses that are still hanging on, but in the next couple of months, they might not be at all and you’ll see a lot larger influx of employees and then at that time, these three months are over and you’re back to charging for the $15 and we have a much higher issue with our tax revenue,” LeJeune said.
Haygood said the city needs to help businesses now.
“To wait and potentially watch while some of our businesses go out of business or have to be forced to have layoffs when we might could do something now that could help and this notion of we’re going to have some future expense,” Haygood said. “We have done a great job, but we’re also, from a budgeting standpoint we’ve done a great job and we have an $8.3 million reserve and we’ve got over $10 million that are available that are unencumbered at the end of January, that’s out last full reporting period that we’ve had, $10.8 million, and we’ve got income that we have not recognized that we know is coming and maybe that’s there to help get us through this time. And, again, there’s a question about whether we want to do this for our citizens and we think it’s important to do it for our small businesses, for me, it is. If the answer is something different for you, then, by all means, you take the action you see as necessary.”
LeJeune said asking about the timing of the fee cut did not mean council members did not care about local businesses.
“I own a small business,” LeJeune said. “You want to talk about passion, I haven’t had the chance to go out in the media and present a great plan before the council saw it because I have to work every single day to try to maintain my business. Now for you to say that that I don’t care about our citizens because I’m questioning the timing of putting a three-month moratorium on our solid waste fee when it might work better three months from now, I don’t know the answer, but for you to sit there and make an off-colored remark that I, if I don’t vote for it don’t care, I am very upset about that.”
The total cost of the resolution is estimated to be $485,800. The cost will be paid from $576,876 in revenue the city received this year after a court case against Daphne was overturned on appeal, according to the resolution.
The city has a reserve balance of $8.37 million.
The city would also postpone sales tax filings for small businesses for three months. Businesses with average monthly retail sales of $62,500 or less can file sales tax returns for March, April and May without paying the taxes due. All sales taxes for those months would be due by July 15.
The resolution also calls for a single $50-permit fee on home remodeling activities to support the construction industry during the pandemic. The fee would cover building, mechanical, electrical and plumbing permits for projects with a value of up to $100,000.