Grosse Pointe Woods first responders to receive COVID-19 hazard pay

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published August 25, 2020

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — More than 30 Public Safety Department employees will receive extra pay for working during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the Aug. 10 City Council meeting, the council voted 6-1 to approve the first responder hazard pay and also letters of understanding between the city and three unions: the Police Officers Labor Council, Command Officers Association; the Police Officers Association of Michigan, Patrol Officers Association; and the Police Officers Association of Michigan, Communications/Dispatchers Association.

The letters of understanding state that hazard pay will only be provided to those employees who are deemed eligible for hazard pay under the requirements set forth by the state of Michigan. According to an Aug. 3 memorandum from Public Safety Director John Kosanke to City Administrator Bruce Smith, the state of Michigan approved COVID relief funds as part of Senate Bill No. 690.

Part of the budget includes a $1,000 one-time payout for first responders who have worked during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first responders are police officers, including lieutenants and sergeants; dispatchers; firefighters; and medical personnel. According to city officials, the hazard pay is a way of thanking and acknowledging the difficult situation that first responders have worked under on a daily basis during the pandemic.

“The city of Grosse Pointe Woods has 34 department members that worked their shifts and performed exemplary service while dealing with a pandemic,” Kosanke states in the memorandum.

Kosanke requested all 34 members receive the $1,000 one-time payout. The city is responsible for paying the money up front and then will apply for reimbursement through the state. The amount of hazard pay will not exceed $1,000 per eligible employee. Hazard pay shall be provided on or before Sept. 30.

The payment would require a budget amendment from the city’s general fund balance. Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds received for reimbursement of the hazard pay expenses will reimburse the city’s general fund balance upon receipt.

According to the Aug. 10 meeting minutes, City Council member Michael Koester was the dissenting vote. In a follow-up email, Koester explained his position for voting “no” on the measure and stated, “It was not because I was inherently against the extra payments. I was just concerned about the process by which it came up for a vote. It all came together very quickly, and I thought that we should just take a moment to make sure that our t’s were crossed and i’s were dotted,” Koester said.

According to the elected official, the council hadn’t had a chance to discuss the matter at a Committee-of-the-Whole meeting prior to the City Council meeting.

“I was concerned with some of the potential unknowns such as what would happen if the state funding didn’t actually arrive and/or if this payment was included in the retirement calculation amount,” Koester said. “Aside from the process concerns that I had, I am glad that PSOs (public safety officers) will be able to receive the bonus.”