Weaverville – In a specially called Zoom meeting on Wednesday morning (Jan. 12), the Weaverville ABC Board met establish a COVID-19 procedure. First, they determined if the ABC store would follow the town in offering their employees a $250 bonus once everyone gets their COVID vaccination and boosters. Second, they discussed if they would penalize employees who don’t get the vaccine with a surcharge of $30 per week to help cover overtime or temporary help if someone was out sick. There seemed to be more questions than answers, just like with the virus itself.
“The surcharge would apply to us. I have personal concerns where this leads in the future. This may take care of right now, but where does this lead in six months, will we be revisiting this,” said ABC Chairman Robert Chason in the meeting. “Does the council have any future discussions on what might happen later as the vaccines wear off?” Town Attorney Jennifer Jackson said there definitely would be more discussion. “This is a policy they [the council] wanted in place to get us through this kind of critical point with such widely easily spreadable virus right now. I don’t expect this to be in place forever.”
Chason said the board paid employees an incentive for being essential employees at the start of the pandemic and wanted to know the other board members’ thoughts. Board member Warren Alcon agreed with an incentive for employees to get the shot, but Tonia Sheppard was against the incentive.
“I do not agree with following the town’s policy, being that I have done a little research myself,” she said, noting that insurance providers could not increase the premium cost if someone were not vaccinated. She also did not want to do an incentive to get the shot if employees were already vaccinated, resulting in a waste of funds. She also revealed she did not wish to motivate someone who didn’t want to get the shot for another reason. “I did the vaccines myself. That was my own choice. I had major issues with my vaccines. I almost died because of the vaccine. Do I want to put that off on somebody else because if someone is in need of a little bonus, they go take a vaccine because we’re going to give them $250 [and] they have health issues because we’re bonusing them? Because of something we believe or the town believes, but they don’t believe it. We’re putting added pressure on people that’s not needed. I do not agree. I will not agree.”
Sheppard wanted to see in writing where unvaccinated employees would cost the town more in insurance premiums. Jackson said they weren’t in writing. “Then why dock their pay?” asked Sheppard. “That’s my concern. We’re taking money out of someone’s check. What’s that money going to be used for?”
Jackson said someone who isn’t vaccinated might have a more severe case of COVID and be out a couple of weeks. The $60 was calculated that overtime might have to be paid or a temporary worker might have to be hired. Jackson made it clear that the surcharge was not optional because the ABC Board had employees covered by the town’s insurance.
Chason then said he was confused. The money would be sent to the town to cover overtime or a temporary employee, yet the ABC Board would be the one paying for that money. “Is that right?” Jackson replied, “So not really. I think there needs to be some further conversations.”
Tony Roger, Weaverville ABC General Manager, told the group that only one employee was not vaccinated but probably would be by the March 1 deadline that the council had set.
The meeting went on for about an hour, discussing other matters such as whether a new hire could be asked if they had their vaccination. Jackson said yes, as it was confidential but not against HIPPA laws.
The board voted not to give an incentive bonus for employees getting the vaccine. Chason and Sheppard voted not to give a bonus while Alcorn voted to provide an incentive. The board also voted to table the surcharge matter until their March 2 meeting, thus choosing to gather more input from the council and securing their own insurance before making a decision.