By Jane Smith
Delray Beach is asking residents to avoid coming into City Hall to pay bills, fees or fines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The widespread effects of COVID-19 illnesses have resulted in slower city services, such as the time it takes to get a building permit, according to Mayor Shelly Petrolia.
“Since March 30, approximately 55 city employees have tested positive and there have been approximately 500 incidents of quarantine” among city personnel such as Fire Rescue and Police departments, Gina Carter, the Delray Beach spokeswoman, said in a Dec. 14 email. The city employs about 800 workers.
“One infection can have a ripple effect. For every person that contracts the virus, their co-workers have to quarantine for days and test negative before they can return to work.”
Delray Beach has paid $108,064 in overtime to Fire Rescue employees since Oct. 1 because of the pandemic, according to Dani Moschella, department spokeswoman. The employees hold the ranks of firefighter, driver-engineer or captain, she said.
Delray Beach is not alone. Boca Raton is paying more overtime for its “essential employees who cover shifts for colleagues out sick or are in quarantine due to exposure,” Chrissy Gibson, city spokeswoman, said in a Dec. 18 email. The city also offers online bill-paying.
Delray Beach firefighters have responded to about 500 COVID-related calls since the end of March.
“It has become the new normal for us,” Assistant Chief Greg Giaccone wrote on Dec. 15. “We would be concerned if there were a surge of cases or exposures within the department that would put pressure on our staffing ability, but we’ve been adjusting well.”
For the Delray Beach Police Department with 166 employees, the cost of overtime since the beginning of the pandemic is $619,836.48, Ted White, department spokesman, said in a Dec. 16 email.
The ranks of employees that received the pandemic overtime were officers, sergeants, lieutenants and captains, White wrote.
“Despite 30 sworn employees testing positive and 10 civilians testing positive since March, we have not reduced our services,” Chief Javaro Sims told the Beach Property Owners’ Association members on Dec. 16.
“We’re actually working smarter in providing the necessary services to our residents, as well as keeping officers safe in the process,” he wrote in a Dec. 16 email to The Coastal Star.
Delray Beach firefighters began receiving COVID-19 vaccines on Dec. 22. The Police Department was expected to receive vaccines after Christmas, Petrolia posted Dec. 18 on her Facebook page.
Mary Hladky contributed to this story.