Dowagiac City Council approves first responder hazard pay

DOWAGIAC — City employees who have been serving on the front lines since COVID-19 made its way to Michigan will be receiving a boost to their paychecks.

Monday evening, the Dowagiac City Council unanimously voted to approve a payout for its employees who served as first responders in the police and fire departments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a memo sent to city council by City Manager Kevin Anderson, the city applied for the First Responder Hazard Pay Premiums Program grant earlier in the summer. The grant is funded through the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. It allows each police officer and firefighter to receive $1,000 each for working in their specialized fields as first responders during the pandemic.

The city of Dowagiac was awarded $33,000 as part of this grant to be distributed at a rate of $1,000 for each of the 33 individual employees in the police and fire departments.

“First responders hazard pay is something we took a look at as part of the CARES Act,” Anderson said during Monday evening’s meeting. “We recognize that firefighters and police have, during the course of this pandemic, been put in unusual and hazardous situations. This is an opportunity to reimburse municipalities — or in our case, give municipalities the opportunity to make a payment to these folks. … It’s a significant piece in recognition of the work and the hazards [first responders] put themselves into during this stretch of time. We are happy that we were able to apply for and be awarded this grant.”

Also Monday:

  • The city council approved a resolution to amend the city’s nonunion classification and compensation system to be effective Oct. 1. The resolution recommended that the classification and compensation wage scale be increased by 1 percent, with a one-time payout of 1 percent for all employees to be paid in November.

“Due to the pandemic and ongoing changes in the state’s fiscal structure, the city recommends keeping the increase in base wages low,” Anderson wrote in a memo to the council. “By next year, we are hoping that the economy has stabilized.”

  • The council authorized the purchase of a replacement transformer for the Poplar Substation. The cost of the replacement is $212,365 to be paid to Solomon Corporation. Additional costs will come from the installation and the removal of the old transformer.

According to Anderson, the city has been monitoring the transformer and planning its replacement for the past three years.

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