County Commissioners take steps toward volunteer coverage

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The Gray County Commissioners Court met on Tuesday morning for their first meeting in June.

After the opening formalities and standard house-keeping items, Josh Butler of Butler and Associates gave a presentation in hopes of being hired as a consultant for the County and its employees in regards to healthcare.

The Commissioners took no action on the topic and will mull the action over the next couple of weeks.

The Commissioners did, however, take the first steps toward signing an insurance policy for volunteer agreements for entities such as the Emergency Services Unit and the reserve deputy program for the Sheriff’s Office.

“The ESU is out doing stuff left and right and it’s time for us to move on this item,” County Judge Chris Porter said. “We’ve got to get the number of ‘employees’ and in talking to (Sheriff) Big Mac about this it sounds like he has four reserve deputies.”

Porter asked Sheriff Michael Ryan how many hours the reserve deputies would work and Ryan said about eight to 12. The policy covers the County for any liability, whether to poor choice or accident, should something happen while a volunteer is on duty.

“If they’re killed while working a traffic accident, this insurance would come and protect us,” Porter said. “It’s for the benefit of the County. But it’s not workman’s comp. The Volunteer Protection Act should cover anybody for any issues like this.”

The cost to the County for the policy is unknown until the framework of the policy is in place and the number of volunteers covered is determined, so the motion was made to just begin the process toward the coverage.

“The inter-local agreement (with ESU, volunteers, etc.) says Gray County will not be held liable for damages, bad decisions, accidents, etc.,” Porter said. “The Volunteer Protection Act covers us also. But we are all on the same page that if my son is out there working a traffic accident and someone runs him over, with this insurance, we’ll be covered.”

The Commissioners did approve the item, but Commissioner Logan Hudson abstained from the item as he is interested in the volunteer deputy program.

The Commissioners did approve the extension of the COVID-19 emergency declaration for the County, but it was not a unanimous decision.

Commissioner Jeff Haley asked if there was a reason to keep the declaration in place with so few cases in the County.

“In the back of my mind I have this little needling thing saying if we have an outbreak your gonna need some help,” Porter said. “If I had not seen the bus-load (of nurses) back in December or January I might not have that mentality. But they were here and we did not have the resources at Pampa Regional Medical Center to handle eight people on a ventilator and the expertise of doctors from down-state to put people on the vents. That’s the only reason I’m hanging onto this thing. I don’t want to be in this situation where we’ve got 200 people who have it and 50 of them are in the hospital and we need emergency personnel to handle that and I can’t even call Emergency Management to request it.”

Porter was asked if Governor Greg Abbott renewed his emergency declaration and Porter said the Governor did on May 15. The order doesn’t change any of the status quo in regards to masks, social distancing and capacity limits, but leaves the County the ability to request funding and other resources in the event of an outbreak. Commissioners John Mark Baggerman and Logan Hudson approved the item, Commissioners Lake Arrington and Jeff Haley voted against the item. Judge Porter was the tie-breaker and voted in favor.

The Commissioners also approved the following items:

• Minutes of the previous Meeting

• Pay Bills as Approved by the County Auditor

• Line Item Transfers

• Rescinding Mental Health Benefits Addition for Gray County Benefits Plan. This item rescinds an action in March but allows the County to go into a different policy on the plan.

• Replacement Bid from Alpha Controls for Courthouse Cooling System.

The Commissioners tabled the following items:

• Repairing Outdoor Emergency Alert Sirens at Cole Addition and Walnut Creek. The Commissioners tabled this to better assess what the need and cost would be for the sirens.

• Declaring Precinct 4 Fuel Depot as Surplus Property. This item was tabled so the Commissioners could get more information on the building.

• Lease Agreement for Hunting Rights on McLean Airport Property

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