LACONIA — City departments ran up more than $200,000 in COVID-related expenses between when the pandemic first hit in mid-March and the end of the year, according to a report released by City Manager Scott Myers on Monday.
About half of the total — $106,046.81 — was accumulated by the Fire Department. Much of that total was used to pay overtime to firefighters who needed to cover for colleagues who were forced to quarantine because of confirmed or suspected exposure to the virus, as well as pay to the firefighters/EMTs during their period of quarantine. The rest was used to pay for personal protective equipment and related supplies, sanitation costs, and quarantine costs.
The City Council at its Jan. 11 meeting asked Myers to prepare the report. Myers was expected to discuss the report in detail at the council’s meeting scheduled to take place later on Monday.
The total of expenses related to the pandemic for the 9½-month was $215,588.41.
Fire Chief Kirk Beattie said the higher COVID-related expenses for his department were unavoidable given the nature of the job, which includes responding to medical aid calls.
“When they call 9-1-1 you have to go out and work with them,” he said, referring to those with medical conditions.
Beattie said that, between mid-March and the end of the year, 13 members of his department had to quarantine because of on-duty exposure either to a medical aid patient who had or was suspected of having COVID or to another department member who may have been inadvertently exposed to the virus.
The department is staffed with nine firefighters/EMTs at any one time.
If a front-line employee either experiences COVID symptoms or comes into close contact with someone who is confirmed or suspected of having COVID, that person must stay home until the 14-day quarantine period is over, or they get a negative result from the COVID test.
“We can’t work remotely," Beattie explained. "We have to respond to calls.”
The department with the next-highest amount of COVID costs was the Recreations and Facilities Department (Parks and Recreation). Their total through the end of the year was $36,585.53. Much of that expense — about $27,000 — was due to the cost for hiring attendants at Weirs Beach who would inform beachgoers of the COVID restrictions, and monitor the number of people at the beach and close it off to newcomers if it reached its COVID capacity of 1,000 beachgoers.
The expenses for the Police Department were much lower by comparison — $8,018.19.