Sheriff’s Department withdraws request for hazard pay
Citing the astronomical cost it could represent to county government, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department has withdrawn a request for hazard pay during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sheriff Scott Stockton and Chief Deputy Matt Demmings appeared before the Putnam County Commissioners on Monday to formally withdraw the request made during their last meeting two weeks earlier.
Stockton said the decision was made after discussions between himself, Demmings, Commissioner President Rick Woodall and County Council President Dave Fuhrman.
“It’s just a fiscal monster,” Stockton said. “There’s no guarantee of reimbursement by the (federal) government.”
Stockton cited specific numbers for his department.
“In one year’s time, God forbid, this hazardous pay to merit deputies and jail staff alone is $526,000 a year,” Stockton said.
Even without going a full year, which is seen as a worst-case scenario, it translates to nearly $44,000 each month.
And none of that takes other departments into consideration.
During the April 6 meeting, the commissioners said if the sheriff’s department received the bonus — proposed as $250 a week per employee — it would also need to be extended to Putnam County EMS.
At that time, a quick estimation was the cost for PCSD and EMS alone would be almost $80,000 monthly
This brought up questions of whether it should also go to the Putnam County Health Department and the Putnam County Coroner’s Office, if not also 911 Dispatch and perhaps others.
“It would open up Pandora’s box,” Stockton said. “It’s just astronomical and there’s no idea where the money is coming from. We’re going to withdraw it just to quash it now so that everybody else doesn’t come forward. We just can’t take that risk.”
The original proposal was at least partly in reaction to a measure approved by the City of Greencastle to give police officers and firefighters bonus pay for each shift worked during the pandemic.
In another consideration related to COVID-19, the commissioners approved an agreement to use the Beta Theta Pi house at DePauw University as a quarantine house for first responders.
The agreement would allow county first responders to utilize the house at 415 Anderson St. should they be exposed to COVID-19.
It would not be a requirement, but it would give responders a residence to use should they feel the need to quarantine from their families.
The agreement was facilitated by Greencastle City Councilman Adam Cohen. Cohen is the chapter counselor as well as DePauw’s men’s swimming coach.
The city also has such an agreement with Beta, though it apparently has a similar agreement with The Inn at DePauw.
The agreement goes through June 30 and can be extended by mutual agreement.
In other business:
• The commissioners signed a contract with the federal Family and Social Services Administration that would allow jail inmates to go on Medicaid or other government-funded insurance.
Legislation was passed in 2015 to allow such moves, but the county did not opt into the program at the time.
Now facing the COVID-19 pandemic, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department has been advised that the program could save the county tremendously should an inmate end up hospitalized.
Demmings explained that PCSD was advised to move forward with the program by Lisa Scroggins, the president of Quality Correctional, the company that provides medical service to the jail.
Scroggins told Demmings that an extended hospitalization for an inmate would be “very devastating to counties who aren’t signed up for this program.”
As currently arranged, if an inmate went into the hospital for an extended stay, the money would come directly from the county general fund.
Under the contract with FSSA, the inmate would not be eligible for benefits from Medicaid or other state- or federally-funded insurance until they entered the hospital.
More than 70 of Indiana’s 92 counties have already signed up.
Commissioners Woodall and David Berry approved the contract 2-0. Commissioner Don Walton again stayed away from the meeting for health concerns.
• Before Stockton and Demmings departed, Woodall asked about the possibility of an old sheriff’s department vehicle being transferred to Putnam County EMS.
The commissioners recently approved a lease on five 2020 Chevrolet Tahoes, which should free up some pool vehicles from the PCSD fleet.
On the other hand, the Ford Expedition still in use by Putnam County EMS is nearly 20 years old.