County adopts new drug test, towing policies

By: 
Faith Lifer
Staff Writer

The Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors adopted a drug testing policy for employees, a new towing policy and a training agreement with East Mississippi Community College at Tuesday morning’s board meeting.

Board President Orlando Trainer was not present during Tuesday’s meeting. Trainer was out of town, attending a convention.

DRUG TEST POLICY

After an amendment was made to one policy, the board approved the adoption of new “drug-free workplace and testing policies” for Oktibbeha County employees.

Before the board adopted the new drug test policies, a main concern regarded the policy to only drug test employees holding certain county jobs— as opposed to testing all county employees— upon hiring.

Early in the discussion, District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams addressed his concern with the contract wording.

“It says: ‘…the county also requires that all applicants in certain county jobs…’” Williams said as he read the contract.

“Can you legally (drug test) for only certain county jobs?” Williams asked.

“I agree with Supervisor Williams,” District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard said. “I think the wording should be: ‘all county employees.’”

County Administrator Emily Garrard said the vague wording was due to the cost of the drug tests.

“The reason this is worded this way, it’s gonna get expensive,” Garrard said.

Each drug test will cost the county $35.

Board Attorney Rob Roberson said the testing might also vary due to the safety concerns of one employee’s role over another’s.

“The truth is, there are jobs out there that are going to be more dangerous that you might want to have that,” Roberson said of the drug testing.

Garrard said other counties that don’t drug test all employees would typically drug test employees who operate equipment, such as those operating vehicles or tractors, along with employees in charge of public health and safety.

“You can drug test everybody,” Garrard clarified. “But this (contract) does not require you to drug test everybody.”

“The good thing about this contract,” Roberson added. “At anytime, your supervisor thinks that (a drug test) is a need, then we can do it.”

Williams also addressed another aspect of the contract which he perceived as vague in terms of wording.

“It says: ‘…if you reasonably suspect someone…’” Williams said. “Wording like that is kinda subjective— you can’t measure it in an objective fashion.”

Williams said he thought that wording may lead to excluding someone from testing due to favoritism or vice versa.

“I agree,” Roberson said. “That is always a possibility. My suggestion is we get this approved and then we may have to come back and change some things.”

Roberson said the contract has the potential to improve the county’s insurance rating, for which he is most concerned.

Garrard suggested the board simplify the process by drug testing all new employees for now.

“We can start by simplifying this to require all employees be drug tested,” Garrard said. “If it gets expensive, then we can change it later down the road.”

Howard made the motion to drug test every new county employee for now, as opposed to choosing a select group of new county employees to test.

The new drug test policies and Howard’s motion were approved 4-0, with Trainer absent.

Under the new drug test policies, there are five situations a county employee, or a potential county employee, could be drug tested:

• When applying for a county job.
• If the department head of the employee “reasonably suspects” foul play.
• During a random drug test.
• If the employee is involved in an accident.
• If the employee is returning to duty after a voluntary rehabilitation program.

Garrard said an outside medical provider would be in charge of assigning random drug tests.

Drug tests for re-employment and after the event of an accident would be Garrard’s responsibility.

TOWING POLICY

After a presentation by Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Chadd Garnett, the board approved the adoption of a new county wrecker rotation policy.

The policy was approved 4-0, with Trainer absent.

The contract for the county’s new policy only applies to the sheriff’s office wrecking rotation within county property.

For example, the contract and its rates do not apply to towing from private property or towing after individual car accidents.

“The county’s never had an ordinance for the wreckers’ rotation,” Garnett said, as he opened his presentation. “They’ve always just used the city ordinance.”

The new policy was formed to address towing complications the sheriff’s office had, which mostly took place during football season.

Garnett said Oktibbeha County Sheriff Steve Gladney received multiple complaints about the charges from the wrecking companies when cars were towed— yet, the cost of service was out of the the sheriff’s office’s control.

The new policy addresses the issue of control.

“This is an agreement between all of the wrecking companies that want to be on rotation, and what the sheriff felt would be a fair rate (for the towing service),” Garnett said of the policy.

The service rate to tow cars or trucks under the new policy is not to exceed $200 for the first hour of service. After the first hour of service, the service fee is not to exceed $50 every 15 minutes.

When a “major accident” requires additional equipment or another vehicle, the supplemental fee is not to exceed $100 with the potential for an additional $50 fee for supplemental fuel costs.

The sheriff’s office also received complaints about the storage rate for the towed vehicles, which is also addressed in the policy.

“We have a lot of college kids. And for whatever reason their car gets towed, they don’t want to tell momma and daddy, and finally a week later they finally do,” Garnett said. “And it’s a $1,000 bill and momma and daddy’s calling and raising cain with us, and we don’t have any control.”

The new policy allows the sheriff’s department to work with the towing company in these situations, allowing the sheriff’s office more control.

The new policy states, after a free 24-hour time period of vehicle storage, the charge for storage is not to exceed $40 for each additional 24-hour time period that passes.

The wrecking rotation policy was originally proposed by Garnett as an ordinance, but the board approved it as a policy.

Gladney and Oktibbeha County Emergency Management Director Kristen Campanella held meetings with all the wrecking companies that wished to be on county rotation prior to Tuesday’s meeting.

EMT TRAINING

Oktibbeha County Fire Department Training Officer Austin Check came before the board Tuesday to propose a training agreement for a county Emergency Medical Technician training program.

The agreement was made between the county and East Mississippi Community College.

The board approved the agreement 4-0, with Trainer absent.

“Just to preface it,” Check said as he began his presentation. “In the fire departments, the courses that we’ve always taught for medical calls— which make up about 80 percent of our call log, maybe more— is at a level that’s called Emergency Medical Responder.”

However, Check came before the board to propose a county option for EMT training.

Check said the courses for EMRs and EMTs are 99 percent similar, but the salary and the transportation requirements of the jobs differ.

EMRs work out of a fire truck and are unpaid. EMTs can work out of ambulances and are paid.

“We do have a sprinkling of EMTs,” Check said of the county fire departments. “But you kinda have to pay for the course yourself and all that.”

The cost of training EMTs has prevented the county from certifying EMTs in the past.

Check said the EMT training needed to be through a community college, which would cost $1,600 per person.

However, the new agreement found a solution for the county fire departments.

“We worked with EMCC and came up with an agreement where we can provide that course in-house here,” Check said.

In-house, the program will cost the county $100 per person as opposed to $1,600.

“The nice thing about that is they’ll be training on the equipment they already work with,” Check added.

The agreement also requires the county to follow the rules and curriculum EMCC sets.

The agreement will last from Sept. 15 to Sept. 14, 2019.

IN OTHER BOARD NEWS

The board approved the county’s claims docket for claims numbers 4,297 through 4,712 with a 3-1 vote. District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller opposed the claims docket and Trainer was absent.

Miller said she opposed the motion due to her opposition of county employee overtime hours.

The board tabled voting on the county’s Golden Triangle Development LINK board member until its next meeting.

The board will hold a budget hearing on Sept. 13 at 9 a.m. and will hold its next official board meeting on Sept. 17 at 5:30 p.m.

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