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Floyd County supervisors discuss OSHA vaccine mandate, handle new year organizational work

Floyd County supervisors discuss OSHA vaccine mandate, handle new year organizational work
Floyd County supervisors hold their organizational meeting for the new year Monday morning in the boardroom at the courthouse, including electing Supervisor Doug Kamm as this year’s chair. From left are Floyd County Auditor Gloria Carr, Supervisor Linda Tjaden, Kamm and Supervisor Roy Schwickerath. Press photo by Bob Steenson
By Bob Steenson, [email protected]

Floyd County Supervisors will hold about twice as many regular meetings where they can take action in the coming year, but will hold fewer meetings in total by ending most workshop sessions.

The county board went through a long list of organizational items at its first meeting of the new year, including electing a new board chair and setting the meeting schedules.

The board also discussed how the county should respond to the federal OSHA mandate that employers with more than 100 employees must require that their employees be vaccinated.

That OSHA mandate was stayed by a U.S. circuit court, but then upheld by a U.S. circuit court of appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to take up the case on Friday.

The supervisors discussed several possibilities and options, but ended up taking a “wait and see” position.

The OSHA requirement is that all employers with 100 or more employees must require COVID-19 vaccinations, except for those who are exempt for religious or certain other reasons.

If the employer doesn’t want to follow that mandate, it can put in place a plan that would allow weekly COVID-19 tests for unvaccinated employees. Unvaccinated employees would also be required to wear facemasks while at work.

If an employer is going to allow testing it needs that plan in place by Jan. 10, Supervisor Linda Tjaden said.

“One thing is that we have to report those employees of ours that have been vaccinated,” Tjaden said, “I talked to Gail (Arjes, Floyd County director of public health) and I said how difficult would that be, and she said not that difficult. She can get that information. It’s on their database.”

If the board were to allow testing and facemasks as an alternative to a vaccination mandate, it would be up to the employees to arrange the weekly testing, and there is a question if enough tests are even available, Tjaden said.

If the county follows the OSHA mandate and requires vaccination of its employees, then that would be a condition of employment, said Gloria Carr, the county auditor. Persons who do not follow the mandate could be put on administrative leave, without pay.

The board discussed how the mandate would effect elected officials, since an elected official can’t be put on administrative leave, and how it would affect the employees of elected officials.

The board decided to take no action and wait to see what the Supreme Court decides, but in the meantime, Tjaden said, she would talk with Arjes about getting the information on county employee vaccinations rates.

Also during the organization meeting Monday morning, Supervisor Doug Kamm was elected chair of the board. The board routinely rotates the chair position each year. The previous chair, in 2021, was Tjaden, and the year before it was Supervisor Roy Schwickerath.

In previous years, the board has held planning sessions – where no official action is taken – at 9 a.m. on most Mondays. Regular meetings, where action is taken, were held the second and fourth Tuesday of each month, originally also at 9 a.m., but starting last year at 1 p.m. Tuesdays.

But Monday, the board approved holding weekly regular meetings every Monday at 9 a.m., partly to allow the board to take actions on claims more frequently, because the county has experienced problems with bills arriving late and payments the county sends out arriving late because of slower mail service.

Whether labeled as a work session or a regular session, meetings where a quorum of board members are present to discuss board business are public meetings under the Iowa Open Meetings Law, and are required to have a specific item-by-item agenda posted at least 24 hours in advance and to be open to the public.

Also Monday, the board:

• Approved a long list of routine organizational items including approving which boards and commissions each supervisor will represent the county at; approving paying recurring claims; setting the official county newspapers for legal publications (Charles City Press and the Nora Springs/Rockford Register); approving appointments other than supervisors to various boards, commissions and agencies; approving the county investment policy and depositories for county funds; and approving publication of county employee gross wages for 2021.

• Appointed the following department directors: Public Health/Home Health Care Director Gail Arjes; General Assistance Director Raina Kellogg; County Social Services Environmental Specialist/Board of Health/Zoning/E9111 Addressing/E911 Commission Jeff Sherman; Emergency Management/Safety Coordinator Drew Mitchell; Information Technology Director Bernie Solomon; Medical Examiner Dr. Paul Royer as primary with the other doctors at the Floyd County Medical Center as alternates; and Conservation Director Adam Sears.

The position of county engineer will be appointed when a new engineer is hired.

• Appointed Sears as county weed commissioner.

• Reappointed Denise Pavlovich and David Tice to new three-year terms on the Health Board.

• Passed a resolution that says Floyd County will continue to participate in the state Master Matrix process to help determine construction approval for confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

• Began work on the fiscal year 2022-23 county budget which will take effect July 1, starting with county department budgets.

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