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Keeping the utilities on: Fiscal court approves participation in grant program

Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

 Carter County Fiscal Court met in special session on Monday to approve participation in a CDBG utility grant that will help local people struggling to pay their utility bills during the pandemic and take pressure off local utility departments that aren’t being paid regularly for the services they provide. 

Malone explained to fiscal court that, under the program, each of the municipal water and sewage systems and the Rattlesnake Ridge water system in the county are eligible to request up to $200,000 each in grant assistance. That means up to $600,000 in utility relief for Carter County residents. Malone said FIVCO was urging all municipalities and county entities to work together to ensure all citizens receive needed utility relief. 

“Basically, what it boils down to, is eligible people who are behind… are eligible to receive grants to avoid cut-offs and pay up to six months (of water bills),” Malone said. 

To qualify homes must demonstrate an inability to pay, Malone explained. The money is then paid directly to the utility provider on their behalf. While Rattlesnake Ridge Water District provides service in the county, the municipal water systems in Olive Hill and Grayson provide water not only to city residents, but to county residents in the area surrounding the cities as well. Malone said the cities will have to file for the funds for their in-city municipal customers themselves, but that the county would file on behalf of Rattlesnake Ridge and those municipal customers who were located outside of city limits in the county. 

Malone said FIVCO was encouraging municipal and county systems to work together on the grant funds, and told the court he had spoken with FIVCO and assured them the “county will be glad to help the cities” on the utility relief. 

In other action the court moved to table a measure related to compensation for county employees quarantining due to COVID-19. Malone told court that the county had received a letter from FIVCO about county COVID quarantine pay policies, and noted that roughly half of the county’s road crew is currently quarantined due to virus exposure. Malone said while some counties are continuing to pay employees who are at home quarantining, in order to encourage folks to take quarantine seriously, others are not. He said Carter County needed to decide on a policy for their county employees who might have been exposed to the virus. 

Malone said the option he was leaning toward was to give everyone the opportunity to get vaccinated, when the vaccine was available to them, then to give them a set number of days to use for paid quarantine until they could be vaccinated. Under his suggested policy if they choose to forego the vaccine, he said, and were exposed they would then have to use their sick days to quarantine rather than being paid without loss of sick days. 

No matter what the court decides on, he said, he felt employees should be allowed to use their sick days to quarantine if necessary. 

“We need to think about what to do about it,” Malone said. 

He said that, until the court decides on a policy, he recommended continuing to pay those at home on quarantine in order to discourage the spread of the virus among healthy, unexposed employees. 

County Attorney Brian Bayes said he would look into what the state was recommending and what other counties were doing. Until then the court moved to table the issue, and to take it back up at their next regular February meeting. 

The court moved to accept Malone’s recommendation to continue paying employees currently quarantining until a policy is decided upon. 

The court also moved to table the County Clerk’s report until the regular meeting and approve the budget amendment on second reading. 

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com

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