CHESTERFIELD — County Council members got an early Christmas gift during their monthly meeting Dec. 2.
Figures show Chesterfield County’s economy is growing and leaving at least 11 other counties in the dust, council Chairman J. Matthew Rivers said.
County Attorney Heath Ruffner was very excited — so much so he had to give a few words before Economic Development Director Kim Burch could spill the beans.
“Not trying to steal the economic director’s thunder,” Ruffner said. “She’s going to give you some numbers that are real impressive. But I think more important or as important as the numbers are the way that we arrived at the numbers. I think the way we arrived at those numbers is more important. A lot of little things add up to big things.”
As of late last month, figures pegged Chesterfield County’s economy at $189.4 million. Officials said a possible new investor could result in an economic impact of more than $208 million.
Economic Development Board Director Kim Burch said she received a phone call earlier in the week and was waiting for a response from the company about the venture.
There are 815 new jobs in the county for the next five years, and some of them are already here. Three new industries help make up that number and there were four expansions.
Chesterfield County has the lowest unemployment rate in the Pee Dee area with 5.7 percent. Officials said their hard work has paid off and now the county will be reclassified from Tier 4 (distressed) to Tier 3 (underdeveloped).
“We worked hard this year,” Burch said. “Our team, we work together well. We fit like a puzzle. This is the season of giving, so I have given you a good report for 2015. We don’t know what 2016 will bring, but I will tell you we will work just as hard in 2016 as we have this whole year.”
Councilman Kenneth Johnson voiced his pride in what the department has done.
“Thank y’all for the job y’all done,” he said. “Kim, I just want to thank you as well as your staff for a job well done. We knew there were some real challenges before us when you came into this position and you surpassed all expectations of mine at least. I know you folks did a wonderful job. Please continue. Thank you so much.”
Councilwoman Mary D. Anderson also praised the staff.
“The numbers look good. It is obvious that you are working hard with what you have presented to us today,” she said.
EMPLOYEE SICK LEAVE
During his presentation, Ruffner shared some changes to the county’s personnel policy. The last change was made in 2009.
As of January 2016, the county will implement a sick leave bank. It is a voluntary program where employees can donate their sick leave time.
If an employee has a catastrophic illness and will be out of work for an extended period of time, he or she can apply for time from the leave bank.
“That’s something that we wanted to do and feel like it will benefit our employees,” Ruffner said. Under the current policy there is annual, personal and sick leave. But with the new policy, personal leave will be eliminated. The change will also allow workers to accrue more time.”
The new policy will be more in line with the state policy, he said.
In the past, employees would accrue a half day a month or just six days a year. The new policy gives full-time county workers a total of 15 days of paid time off per year.
Long-term employees will also benefit as they will able to get extra time for their years of service. The council did not have to vote on the changes.
In other business, council members encouraged Randall Bird of Eagle Construction to meet privately with the county’s building committee to discuss his concerns about the new animal shelter. Bird addressed the council during a time reserved for public comment.
Bird said his company was receiving bills from subcontractors that had not been paid.
After Bird began speaking, Rivers told him it may not be best to air the concerns publicly in case they result in future litigation.
“My question to that is are there some contentious issues or issues of dispute…” Rivers said. “The point I’m making is if there are disputes that may possibly develop into legal disputes, I don’t think it would be proper to get into details.”
Bird said he did not feel the issues would lead to a civil complaint. Ruffner said legal issues could arise, but the county attorney added Bird could say whatever he wished.
After some discussion, Bird was informed he would be notified about a meeting with the building committee to deal with the issues directly.
Reach Maria D. Grandy at 843-537-5261.