November 29, 2014

Board comes up with plan to deal with replacement displacement

By Tim Barnum
Staff writer
Posted

ARENAC COUNTY — As new windows are placed in the Arenac County Courthouse to help save on utility costs over time, employees will be displaced from their places of work – especially when painting starts around the new windows.

The Arenac County Board of Commissioners had a lengthy discussion about how to deal with employees that may have difficulty dealing with the fumes emitted from the paint. After the discussion, it seems the plan is to have employees in offices getting a paintjob work in areas within the courthouse with cleaner air. Possible alternative work areas proposed by commissioners included the courtrooms, the Board of Commissioners’ meeting room and a downstairs kitchenette/lunchroom.

It seemed at first during the discussion, the Board may have been thinking about allowing department heads to send employees who have difficulty dealing with the fumes home.

However, some Commissioners blatantly opposed that idea of letting department heads choose who can go and stay.

“They (department heads) don’t have the authority to close their office,” said District V Commissioner Joseph Sancimino.

“I’m not in favor of sending anybody home,” said Board Chairman Raymond Daniels. “I think they (employees in rooms with paint fumes) can come up and set up in this room (board meeting room).”

Daniels also said sending employees home due to the painting was “going to be about the third choice down the road.”

The board also discussed whether or not county employees would be able to get a lot of their daily tasks accomplished outside of their regular offices, another reason to potentially send them home.

“If the department head can find work for them to do here, they (department heads) should say ‘stay,’” said District I Commissioner Jane Danjin.

And although Danjin agreed with Sancimino and Daniels after some deliberation, she at first said she thought employees having respiratory issues from the paint should be allowed to head for home with no penalty.

“I have no problem with people staying and working as long as the department head can find work for them and as long as they’re not exposed to paint fumes,” Danjin said.

Sancimino said he thought that if an employee was exposed to paint fumes and faced health risks because of it, then it would be reasonable for them to use a sick day or vacation day to go home and recover.

Daniels, however, said he believed a grievance filed against the board regarding Sancimino’s idea would deal a blow to the board and have it spending numerous hours amending the grievance.

Norman Curcio, president of the Steelworkers’ Union in Arenac County, gave some insight as to why she thought Daniels was right.

“I’ve already burnt all my sick days and vacation days,” Curcio said, adding she is highly allergic to the fumes in paint. “You cannot breathe (during a reaction). Your heart is racing.”

The window replacement project overall costs approximately $400,000 and it is being done by Ripke Construction, St. Helen. It entails new windows and doors, window panes, electrical work and painting.

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