BALDWIN -- The Lake County Board of Commissioners adopted an "essential staffing and operations policy for COVID-19 pandemic" and expanded family leave and sick leave policies at its meeting on March 25.

"I developed (the staffing policy) over the weekend, so when the governor issued her stay at home stay safe executive order on March 23, we were able to make minor adjustments for it to comply with the order and put it in place immediately," Lake County Administrator Tobi Lake said.

"I met with department heads and board leadership in a special department head meeting, and later that day we implemented it on March 24. The board of commissioners formally approved it at their meeting on March 25," he continued.

The essential staffing and operations policy states that the spread of the coronavirus disease has caused "unprecedented challenges" to the operations of county government and delivery of essential public services, and following the typical, non-emergency procedures would undermine the effectiveness of the county's response to the disease.

The policy authorizes the county administrator to designate certain non-union and non-trial court positions as essential or non-essential and direct the closure of certain offices or facilities.

Nonessential employees may be placed on administrative leave and essential employees may be required to continue reporting, be deployed to other offices or facilities, be assigned new functions, or be placed on administrative leave, the policy states.

"All non-union employees were either classified as essential or nonessential," Lake said. "Some are working normal hours to address critical county business and provide vital public services, others are working limited hours or days, some are working remotely, and others have been ordered to stay home and not to report for work."

Employees placed on administrative leave will be compensated with pay for up to 15 working days without deduction from their leave or compensatory time banks, the policy states.

Employees at a closed facility who are directed to report to work, but fail to do so, are not entitled to paid administrative leave and will have their time charged to banked vacation, sick, personal leave, or compensatory time.

"The county buildings have been closed to the public under an earlier notice and although no one has been formally reallocated to different departments, I have had to use people to help assist in aiding our emergency services response to the virus," Lake continued.

Additional policies were added to the agenda and approved by the board, as well, Lake said. They address employee paid family leave and sick leave as required in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020.

"I believe President Trump signed the act on March 18, and it was required to go into effect on April 1 or 2," Lake said. "Given such a tight turnaround, we were forced to quickly develop the policies and add them to the agenda because the next board meeting wasn't until April 8."

The Family Medical Leave Expansion and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave polices adopted by the BOC define the expanded leave available to employees during the pandemic as required by the federal act.

The FMLA policy provides up to 12 weeks of job protected "Public Health Emergency Leave" (PHEL) to eligible, covered employees who are unable to work because they must care for a child or children under 18 years of age, if the children's school or childcare provider is unavailable due to a public health emergency.

The first ten days of PHEL are unpaid, however, an employee may elect to use accrued paid leave instead of unpaid leave. After the first ten days, the county will provide pay at two-thirds the employee's regular rate up to $200 per day or $10,000 total.

Eligible employees taking leave under the FMLA Expansion Act will be reinstated to their former positions, or to an equivalent position with equivalent benefits, however, no employee is entitled under this policy to any right, benefit or position other than that to which the employee would have been entitled had they not taken leave, the policy states.

The Emergency Paid Sick Leave policy states that the county will provide all employees, including new hires, with paid sick leave, separate from any normal sick leave accruals, if the employee is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19, has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19, is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis or is caring for someone who meets those criteria, or a child who's school or daycare is closed due to the pandemic.

The sick leave will not be deducted from the employee's accrued leave banks.

For additional information regarding these policies, or how to access county services remotely, visit lakecounty-michigan.com.

In other business, the BOC approved the hiring of Road Patrol officer Deputy Seth Rosebrook.

Rosebrook was hired by the Lake County Sheriff's office on March 16. He has ten years of military experience, including in the military police, and was a police officer in Port Aransas, Texas, for nine years.

His 19 years of service in military policing and civilian law enforcement will be an asset to this county, Sheriff Ed Williams told the BOC.

Due to the threat of the spread of the coronavirus, and the executive order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to close all places of "public accommodation," the BOC meeting was held via telephone conference.

The next BOC meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m., April 8. To access the meeting by phone, dial (312) 757-3121. When prompted enter the access code: 533-997-197.

Visit lakecounty-michgan.com for more information.