SHAFTSBURY >> The Select Board is considering making some changes to the overtime policy for the town road crew.
"There's a couple of basic changes you want to make," recommended Town Administrator David Kiernan. "In the current policy, it says sick, personal, holiday, and vacation leave do not count towards hours worked, when you're looking at overtime. I'd like to strike that. It also says it is understood that, in order to minimize overtime expenses, the normal workplace schedule may be adjusted, which basically means that if you do 12 hours of plowing on Sunday, we should assign you a day off that week so we don't pay you overtime, which is not a motivator for people to be picking up their phone at 3:30 in the morning to come out and plow."
The second piece of the policy, he said, may not even be legal.
Kiernan said removing those two pieces would make the policy more flexible. As it stands now, road crew members are not using their compensatory time off, which the town is required to give them, because to do so would often prevent them from getting overtime pay. "If it's snowing for four days and then its sunny on the fifth day, and they want to take a day off," said Kiernan, "they're not doing it now, even if they're coming in tired, because they'll lose their overtime. To me it seems not fair, and not a motivator, and not a way to keep a crew together and willing to pick up that phone at 3 in the morning." Kiernan recommended a policy more similar to the state's, which does not count sick time toward overtime, but does count everything else, or even a policy that included everything in the overtime calculation.
Board Chairman Tim Scoggins said that road crew members who earn compensatory time, but do not use it, must be reimbursed by the town for all their remaining compensatory time at the end of their employment. "It's really about when we want to give them the incentives to take that," he said, "and if we allow them to count that as work time, they're more likely to take it during the winter, on a slow day, because they'll know its not going to cost them overtime."
He said, similarly, a sick employee may not use a sick day during the week if they know a blizzard is coming on the weekend, and will choose to work sick rather than lose their overtime hours.
Kiernan pointed out that sick time, which goes away at the end of each year, is what would have to be used in the event of a long-term injury, and that employees are encouraged not to use sick time frivolously, because once it's gone, it's gone. Kiernan also said there is currently no differentiation between personal days and sick days, which he said he would like to see split apart. "If you're really sick, if you have the flu, please don't get in one of our sixteen-ton trucks," Kiernan said, "please, stay home, we'll figure out how to do this on the fly. But, if you need to take a day because you're tired, you could take the time from comp time, or personal time, (without losing overtime pay)."
The compensatory time, which four of the five crew members have some amount accumulated, was given by the board last year in lieu of overtime hours, because so much overtime was being earned that the town was $7,000 over its road budget by February. The road crew has complained that they are too busy keeping the roads safe to take that time off, however, and would prefer the overtime pay. Kiernan said the town could adopt another policy from the state, which reads that compensatory time, if it is not taken after two years, must be paid to the employee in the form of a check, which would clear it off the books, while giving employees the choice of whether to use the time or to simply receive a check for those hours.
Kiernan told the board that he is working on drafting a new policy that would address some of these changes, and will present it to them at their next meeting.
The board meets the first and third Monday of every month at 6:30 p.m. at Cole Hall on Buck Hill Road. Full recordings of their meetings are available on Catamount Access Television, and on the station's YouTube page.