VERONA — A new policy change could shorten the amount of time Augusta County employees spend out of work after an injury following a workers’ compensation claim.
The Augusta County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an update to the county’s existing workers’ compensation policy Wednesday. The revised policy will allow VACorp, the workers’ compensation insurance carrier, to pay an employee directly instead of reimbursing the county for the 66½% of county wages.
Before Wednesday’s policy revision, Augusta County paid employees 100 percent of their salaries when the employee is on workers’ compensation, said Augusta County director of human resources Faith Duncan and deputy county administrator Jennifer Whetzel in a letter addressed to county administrator Tim Fitzgerald. However, with the change, employee on workers’ compensation will recieve 66½% of their wage.
“When I was doing some research, I found out that we were not in compliance with the Virginia Code and the Workers’ Comp commission of what we should be paying employees that are out on workers’ comp,” Duncan said.
According to Virginia Code 65.2-500, “when the incapacity for work resulting from the injury is total, the employer shall pay, or cause to be paid, as hereinafter provided, to the injured employee during such total incapacity, a weekly compensation equal to 66½% of his average weekly wages, with a minimum not less than 25 percent and a maximum of not more than 100 percent of the average weekly wage of the Commonwealth as defined herein.”
Duncan said there hadn’t previously been any major claims where an employee was out of work for an extended time, but longer claims were made recently.
“We have had that happen, and that’s a lot of what brought this to our attention,” Duncan said.
Typically, employees are out of work anywhere from seven days to one month.
“It’s really hard to get people back to work when they’re making more money on comp than if they were working,” said Pastures supervisor Pam L. Carter.
Individuals who are currently receiving workers’ compensation from the county will not be affected by the updated policy because they are under a grandfather clause. Following Wednesday’s policy change, any new claims will be handled this way.
Planned poultry project worries some
During Wednesday night’s public matters, Fishersville residents from Farm Draft Lane came before the board to express concerns about a possible poultry house project known as J Lynn Farms Poultry Addition that Jason Lynn plans to build if he meets the conditions to begin the project.
Ken Jones expressed his concerns with the poultry house project, including its proximity to nearby houses, a detrimental impact on the environment and property values.
“I think what concerns us the most is it’s a rather large intensive agricultural operation very close to some residential houses,” Jones said. “Some of the houses are about 200 yards from the poultry houses.”
According to Jones, each poultry house will be about 39,000-square feet in size.
Following the suggestions of board members, Jones and another neighbor, Judy Dewitt, met with Lynn to discuss the project. After discussing the project with neighbors, Lynn has agreed to plant vegetation around the poultry houses to screen the area and paint the walls of the houses green to make it less visible.
Dewitt also voiced her concerns about the project during Wednesday’s meeting. She only learned about the project 10 days ago and hasn’t slept since then, she said. One of her major concerns is the water levels in the area.
“Our biggest problem has been water-barren,” Dewitt said. “Our average wells in that area for probably 25 people that I’ve talked to is about a gallon and a half a minute.”
Dewitt said she’s drilled three wells on her property but still dries up the well up with regular household use. Lynn will need to have an adequate water supply to the property before the project can move forward. A well driller is coming Thursday to see how much water can reach the land, Jones said.
“You know the old saying you pray for rain, maybe in your case you all want to pray for no water, said board chairman Gerald W. Garber. “If you all have wells that are making a couple of gallons a minute, he will never get the water he needs.”
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