MFD displays new rescue truck for Quorum Court; County revises paid sick-leave policy : KZHE News Blog
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MFD displays new rescue truck for Quorum Court; County revises paid sick-leave policy

by J.D. Bailey on 09/08/21

Columbia County’s newest emergency service vehicle was on full display Tuesday evening in downtown Magnolia. 

The brand new Magnolia Fire Department rescue truck was hand-delivered from Pennsylvania in August after more than a year of planning for and retrofitting. The Dodge Ram 3500 quad cab is now one of the most advanced emergency vehicles in the local fleet and was shown to the Columbia County Quorum Court at the Magnolia square by Magnolia Fire Department Chief Greg Pinner. 

“It’s a state-of-the-art truck,” said Russell Thomas, JP for Columbia County District 3.

The project was a joint purchase between the City of Magnolia and Columbia County governments. The cost, which totaled around $180,000, was split among the entities. The Magnolia Fire Department now operates the truck 24-hours-per-day and travels to accident calls around the county.

County rescue services were formerly handled at no cost to the county by the Columbia County Ambulance Service, but the private company announced in 2019 that it would be exiting the service and focus on traditional ambulance response.

The new vehicle has been totally retrofitted for vehicle accident rescues. It contains battery-powered cutting and spreading extraction tools capable of removing an accident victim from a crushed car or truck, often referred to as “Jaws of Life” devices, as well as a foam flame retardent tank to help extinguish vehicle fires. Other tools, such as bolt cutters and tow-straps are also contained in the rear shell of the truck.

Last month, Magnolia Mayor Parnell Vann said that a front-bumper winch will be coming soon to the vehicle.

“Those guys (MFD) have already done some pretty great things in our city and county with the truck,” he said.

According to Thomas, Magnolia-Columbia County rescue services responded to six incidents in August. Of those, three occurred in the city of Magnolia, while the other three calls took place in the county.

COUNTY LEAVE REVISION

The Columbia County Quorum Court on Tuesday approved a revision to its COVID-19 sick-leave policy for county employees.

The measure, which passed unanimously by the court, specifically deals with and repeals an emergency ordinance passed in March 2020 after Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared a public health emergency with the arrival of the coronavirus into the state. In last year’s ordinance, the county permitted any employee a period of paid administrative leave if he tested positive for COVID or was symptomatic and seeking diagnosis for the virus. The policy also allowed for paid time off if an employee had been in close contact with someone with the virus.

The leave time was determined by CDC and Arkansas Department of Health recommendations, according to the 2020 ordinance. 

In the old policy, there were no limitations set on how many times a worker could be placed on leave for the virus.

The new ordinance passed Tuesday states that, if an employee has already been placed on paid administrative leave, he can qualify for a second period of paid time off only for a new exposure or diagnosis if the episode occurred at the workplace. The number of days off will also be determined by a worker's healthcare provider recommendation or that of the Arkansas Department of Health.

Employees who do qualify and receive paid leave for coronavirus must also now provide documentation for their illness. To qualify, an employee must show evidence of a positive COVID test or a written note from a healthcare professional, and a written note from a professional releasing the employee out of quarantine. If a county worker is placed on paid leave while showing signs of the COVID or he is seeking a diagnosis for the virus, he won’t be able to return to work until a release recommendation from a healthcare pro is provided.

A worker who qualifies for paid leave due to close proximity of a COVID-positive individual, will also now be required to indicate the date of the contact, where it occurred, and whether the worker has seen a healthcare professional or consulted with the Arkansas Department of Health. If employees wish to take off for any other reasons other than those stated in the revised policy, they will be subject to the regular county rules for vacation and time-off, according to the ordinance.

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