Workman's comp for volunteers a big cost

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County can pay up to $5,200 per year to cover helpers

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Gillespie County Commissioners on Monday agreed to provide workers’ compensation insurance to cover one volunteer each at Pioneer Memorial Library and the Gillespie County Airport.

The debate with departments heads, who asked for more volunteer coverage, brought to light the large costs of covering volunteer labors in a community that values service.

Gillespie County Treasurer Laura Lundquist stated that county departments can elect to cover volunteers to receive workers’ compensation insurance.

“This is through the Texas Association of Counties and it allows us to add or drop individuals as needed,” Lundquist said.

Originally, Pioneer Memorial Library wished to cover two persons and Gillespie County Airport Manager requested to cover four.

“If we do not have an actual record of the number of hours these people worked, there is a set amount that we submit. And we would likely pay around $5,200 per person, but it is dependent on the rates,” she said. “We then submit our actual payroll, and we usually get a refund.”

“I really wish we knew how much this would actually cost us,” Stroeher said.

Lundquist said she was unsure what rates for the 2019 year would be as they are not set until January. Commissioners expressed concern with this.

“When I am absent, I have individuals that help clear emergencies and manage the runway. And I didn’t want to discourage them to help with these situations,” Gillespie County Airport Manager Tony Lombardi said.

“So, we have our people moving airplanes off the runway?” Stroeher asked.

Lombardi said that in the past, local agencies assist, along with volunteers, as they are required to clear the zone within 150 feet.

“The concern I heard through the advisory board is that some of the planes have rockets and if we have people around these planes that don’t know how to handle this type of plane and something happens, that could be a dangerous situation,” Neffendorf said.

Stroeher was under the understanding that agencies, rather than volunteers, assist with these situations.

Lombardi said more often than not, it is minor issues like landing failure or gear failure, which don’t damage the runways.

“We need to get these planes into a safety zone and sometimes I have to use whatever tools and assets necessary to clear the area,” Lombardi said.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Charles Olfers and Schuch expressed concern for covering these volunteers, as it is a liability.

“Can we make a list of specific volunteers with specific job descriptions? Because these are people that are technically working for the county at the time that something happens,” Schuch said.

Lombardi and Neffendorf reassured that these are experienced people but would like the coverage just in case.

Ultimately after much collaboration, commissioners agreed to cover one volunteer from each department.

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