Stone Mountain considers employee bonuses for getting vaccinated

District Health Director for DeKalb County Board of Health, Dr. Elizabeth Ford gives District 5 Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson a second dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the Lou Walker Senior Center in Stonecrest on Feb. 10. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Stone Mountain, GA — Less than one-third of city of Stone Mountain employees are vaccinated against COVID-19, leading the city council to consider cash bonuses and a change in sick leave policy as incentives to get the shot.

Ten of the city’s 32 employees — or 31 percent — are known to be vaccinated as of Tuesday, according to City Manager ChaQuias Miller-Thornton. That falls far behind the 45 percent of DeKalb County residents and 44 percent of Georgia residents who are fully vaccinated, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

“That’s why I think that education and incentivizing our employees to get vaccinated is going to be key,” Miller-Thornton said at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

The council will consider two new strategies: a $150 bonus for employees who provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination, and requiring unvaccinated employees who are exposed to or test positive for the virus to telework or use personal sick leave.

The city has provided paid administrative leave for quarantine leave without requiring employees to use their sick leave since the pandemic began. Five city employees have been exposed to or tested positive for the virus since then, according to Miller-Thornton.

The city is also in talks with Oasis Healthcare Service about holding COVID-19 vaccination education sessions with city employees.

“We do hear some of the concerns that employees have when it comes to wanting to be vaccinated,” Miller-Thornton said. “Some of them are concerned about not having enough information or conflicting information on the vaccine.”

Mayor Patricia Wheeler was in favor of the education sessions.

“With Oasis coming in and doing a little training and talking about being tested and all, I think it will help with some of the employees who have mixed feelings about what they want to do,” she said. “Once we get through that, that should be a big help.”

Councilmember Clint Monroe expressed concern about unvaccinated city employees who come into contact with the public.

“It doesn’t seem right to put the public at risk,” he said.

Monroe suggested putting unvaccinated employees on limited duty until they get the shot.

“Restricted duty is not going to be an option,” Miller-Thornton responded, saying the city is already understaffed and it will affect city services.

The city council will discuss the bonus and change in sick leave policy at its Sept. 21 work session.

In other news from Tuesday’s meeting, the council voted unanimously to lease and outfit two new police cars from Allan Vigil Ford for a total of $67,801 including three years of interest payments.

The council also voted 5 to 1 to reassign about $53,000 of the $233,000 allocated for renovating the historic train depot. The money will be used to fund anticipated revenue shortfalls due primarily to the reduction of the 2021 millage rate and to fund COVID-19-related expenditures. Monroe was the only member to vote against the resolution.

Mayor Pro Tem Chakira Johnson announced that volunteers from the Georgia Tech Urban Honeybee Project, the Stone Mountain Women’s Club, the Columbian Squires and others will work on a project on Saturday at 8:30 a.m. at the city’s community garden at VFW Park. Wheeler and Miller-Thornton will be in attendance.

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