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Commissioners move to declare county employees essential

Tuesday, August 3, 2021 - The Board of Sequoyah County Commissioners are working to declare all county employees as essential workers, which will allow them to receive extra pay as part of the U.S. government's American Rescue Plan.

Jim Rogers, the board chairman and District 1 commissioner, said during the panel's regular Monday meeting that the measure would also allow the county to move its rural fire departments, law enforcement agencies and 911 centers into the digital communication era. “This is a great opportunity for us and I think our employees are as essential as anyone else,” he said.

Leasha Case, the field representative for U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, (R-Okla.), attended the commissioners' meeting and said she was in contact with other Oklahoma legislators to help facilitate the commissioners' request.

The commissioners also approved a pair of yearly service contracts Monday, including one for IT services between the OSU Center for Local Government Technology and the Sequoyah County Assessor's office and a detention services agreement between Community Works, LLC, and Sequoyah County (for the Cleveland County Regional Juvenile Detention Center and the Pottawatomie County Detention Center).

The commissioners approved a lease-purchase agreement for an Etnyre oil distributor truck on a state contract for District 1. The total purchase price for the truck is $203,000. The panel also awarded a bid for the purchase of a flatbed for District 2.

Also in District 2, the commissioners approved two road project agreements, including a deal between the county and URETEK on the Cato Creek Bridge project and a federal highway agreement OK Flap 5407(1) on Blackgum Landing Road. The latter project is a 2-mile-long stretch of roadway that has federal lake access. Construction there is expected to begin in late December, District 2 Commissioner Beau Burlison said.

In another District 2 agenda item, the commissioners approved a 324a claim for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to pay Bruckner Truck for a 2022 Mack P164R 10-wheel dump truck through the county's Road Machinery and Equipment Revolving Fund. The revolving fund allows county commissioners around the state to apply for a one-time 3 percent interest payment to finance equipment. District 3 Commissioner Jim Rogers said the revolving fund is a “good way for us to purchase equipment without incurring a high interest payment.”

The increasing number of COVID-19 cases around the state was a hot topic among commissioners and members of the audience. Stephanie Six, administrator of Northeastern Health System – Sequoyah, said the hospital has had to send several coronavirus patients as far away as Illinois and Denver, Colo., for treatment because of a lack of available bedspace in the Sooner State.

“It's so difficult to send patients so far away,” she said. “It's very hard on everybody, the patients, the health-care workers and the families.”

Six urged Sequoyah County residents to get vaccinated, noting that even though those who have been vaccinated can still acquire COVID-19, they usually don't become as sick as those who are unvaccinated. Nearly 90 percent of current COVID-19 cases are among the unvaccinated population. “Please get your shots,” Six said.

Pafford EMS has been instrumental in helping the hospital find out-of-state beds for sick patients, Six said. “Pafford has really stepped up,” she said. “They have helped us tremendously. Teamwork is what it's all about.”

The resurgence of COVID-19 is also having an impact on SAC Nutrition centers around the area, director Carol Thomas said. Several employees are currently out with the virus, which may force some sites to shut down, she said, “and we just reopened June 1.”

In other business, the commissioners:

*Approved the transfer of funds from the Law Library's personal services account to its maintenance and operations account.

*Approved the transfer of funds from the Sequoyah County Assessor's Virtual Inspection account to its maintenance and operations account.

Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer

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