PARIS — With the possibility of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination looming, Administrator Donald Durrah discussed the county’s options with the Oxford County Commission at Tuesday’s meeting.

The emergency vaccine mandate, administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is currently on hold following several court challenges. But Durrah said the Maine Department of Labor is scheduled to take up the matter on Dec. 2 and may rule independently of OSHA to mandate vaccinations.

If enacted, the current OSHA mandate would require employees at all businesses with more than 100 employees to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4 or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing.

Oxford County has 109 employees, said Durrah, who added that he wanted to get ahead of the policy so the county would be prepared for any scenario.

The two options available to the county are mandatory vaccinations — with exemptions for religious or medical reasons — or an employee choice option.

The mandatory policy would be simpler to administer. Anyone with an approved exemption for religion or medical would be required to get tested every seven days.

The choice policy would be more complicated, but could be done, Durrah said. All employees who do not provide the county with a copy of their COVID-19 vaccine card would be required to get tested every seven days. The question, Durrah said, is who would pay for the testing — the county or the employee?

If it is determined that the county has to pay for each employee to get tested every seven days, Durrah said he believed that American Rescue Plan Act funds could be used.

The choice option would likely require more testing than the mandatory policy.

If an employee is not tested within each seven-day span, that employee would not be allowed to work until the test results are received. That could create a scheduling nightmare for an organization that operates seven days per week, 24/7, Durrah told the commissioners.

“Each option is a bad option,” Durrah said. “I feel we’re between a rock and a hard place.”

Every elected officials would be bound by the policy and would not be allowed in the county building if they do not comply with the mandate, Durrah said.

The county has to enforce the mandate or it would be subject to a $14,000 fine for each infraction.

By next month, officials will need to decide which of the two policies to implement.

In other business…

Commissioners approved a request for proposal for a new ventilation system for the county jail. The board also approved an RFP to upgrade radio communications.

“It’s long overdue,” said Commissioner Steven Merrill of Norway. “We’ve talked about it and talked about it for years.”

Sheriff Christopher Wainwright said calls for service are up another 25% over last year’s record year. He said one of his deputies responded to 10 calls himself during his shift Monday night.

He added that his department is seeing an increase in sexual assaults and suicide attempts, saying on average that his officers field four-to-five mental health calls per day, which is adding to their own stress levels.

“We’re hoping to keep everyone happy and healthy,” Wainwright said.

Commissioners made a number of staffing changes. Geffrey Inman was promoted to director of the Regional Communication Center, replacing Durrah, who held the position before becoming county administrator. Nichole Cargnino was promoted to full-time administrative assistant from her position as commissioner’s clerk.

The board accepted the resignations of Amanda Grenier from the probate office and dispatcher Kathryn Burke. The county will be posting job openings for a deputy communications director, a probate clerk and a full-time dispatcher.

The board also approved hiring Hoyle, Tanner & Associates of Yarmouth for consulting and aviation engineering services for the Oxford County Regional Airport.

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