As at previous meetings, the discussion focused on trainees’ pay while attending the academy. Until recently, according to Dover Police Chief Randy Johnson, new officers attending the academy were paid on a regular hourly basis for all of their time spent in training and received a training allowance.
After checking with labor department officials, however, Johnson and town administrator Carlo Pilgrim learned that, under labor law, the town isn’t required to offer any pay during the training period. The Vermont League of Cities and Towns recommended paying trainees at least the minimum wage, which would allow them to be covered under workers’ compensation insurance in the event of an injury during training.
Johnson said officers can spend as many as 55 hours per week in training at the police academy. He acknowledged that the town would have difficulty recruiting new officers if trainees were offered no compensation or minimum wage during their 16-week stint at the academy, but he proposed paying trainees at a regular hourly rate to be set by the selectboard for up to 40 hours per week while they’re at the academy, in addition to a travel allowance. Johnson said the move would save the town money, while allowing trainees to meet their living expenses during the training period.
Tuesday evening, board member Tom Baltrus objected to the plan, characterizing it as a de facto cut in wages. “It’s an hourly wage,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair to hire some at a rate and then tell them ‘By the way, we’re going to pay you less.’”
“But this isn’t work,” said Pilgrim. “Don’t confuse sending a cadet to the academy as working. It’s training.”
“If a trainee falls and breaks their leg, is it covered by workman’s comp?” Baltrus asked.
Pilgrim agreed the employee would be covered by workers’ compensation. “Then it’s work!” said Baltrus.
Selectboard chair Randy Terk said the proposed policy wasn’t a cut in wages. “It limits the number of hours that will be paid. It does not limit the (hourly) amount that is negotiated with the prospective hire. I think your point is that if the chief comes in and says he wants to hire someone and pay them minimum wage at the academy, and $20 per hour when working, we can say that’s not fair, no.”
Board members approved the policy.
In other matters, Pilgrim asked board members to approve the purchase of 10 more flags and mounting hardware to be installed on utility poles in East Dover at a cost of $477.
Baltrus noted that identical flags recently purchased were slipping down the flagpoles. “Is there an issue with the quality of the flags we bought last time?”
Road commissioner Bobby Holland said the clip at the top of the poles wasn’t adequately holding the flags. He also said the steel bands used to clamp the flag holders to the utility poles weren’t long enough for some applications.
Board members approved the purchase of more flags, pending a resolution to any “warranty issues” with the flag supply company.
Holland also told board members there was a temporary delay in paving work on Dover Hill. “Do we need to build into our RFPs a penalty for noncompletion by a certain date?” asked Terk.
The board also approved a request for $1,400 to be spent on an employee appreciation day to be held at Dover Park and Dover Forge, on August 24.
Board members also accepted bids for heating oil and diesel submitted by Guy Nido. Nido’s bid of $3.29 per gallon for #2 heating oil and summer diesel, and $3.55 per gallon for winter diesel were lower than the only other bidder, Cota & Cota, at $3.33 per gallon for #2 heating oil and $3.51 for diesel year-round.