Officials, employees discuss city handbook issues

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Brookhaven employees voiced concerns and suggestions Tuesdayduring a meeting with the mayor and board of aldermen regarding anew employee handbook.

Mayor Bob Massengill said the new handbook was necessary due tochanges in state and federal personnel laws over the years. The newhandbook will also addresses other aspects of city employment.

“We want employees to know what their obligations are, but alsowhat their benefits are,” Massengill in opening the meeting at theBrookhaven Recreation Department.

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Approximately 40 city employees, many from the fire department,attended the meeting. Holiday, vacation and other leave-relatedconcerns occupied much of the discussion.

Police Chief Pap Henderson questioned a handbook proposal thatprovides for another paid day off for police and firefighters whowork on a holiday but no other day off for those whose normal dayoff falls on the holiday. Henderson said police and firefightershave be on duty at all times.

“We can’t shut down like the rest of the city can shut down,”Henderson said.

The holiday situation also on a list of concerns raised byfirefighters.

“We’re trying to make it fair to all city employees and not setone group off from another,” said Chief Paul Cartwright.

Assistant Fire Chief Bob Watts represented firefighters indiscussing handbook concerns.

Those included the potential loss of leave time due tovacations, sick leave, and holiday policy changes. Firefightersalso asked that an employee’s spouse’s immediate family be includedunder the city’s funeral leave policy.

Under the current schedule, firefighters work shifts of 24 hourson duty and 48 hours off duty. Watts acknowledged that comparingshift duty with other work schedules is difficult and saidfirefighters did not want to seem ungrateful for benefits theycurrently receive.

“We just don’t want to lose what we’ve gained through theyears,” Watts said.

City officials said a handbook consultant is expected to meetwith representatives of the police and fire departments. A date forthat meeting has not been set.

Other city employees asked about a policy to allow them to carryforward unused vacation and sick leave time to be applied towardtheir retirement. City Attorney Joe Fernald said the handbook hadbeen amended to allow that.

“They’re both in there,” Fernald said.

Cartwright also asked the board to consider handbook provisionsthat would give employees something to fall back on in the case ofan extended illness. There were instances mentioned last nightwhere employees have had to use vacation time in order to be paidwhile recovering.

“When we get down sick, it’s like the time clock is ticking onus,” Cartwright said.

No actions regarding the handbook were taken last night.Massengill said he hopes the board and employees will be able towork together in developing the handbook.

“We want to do everything we can to improve the morale of theemployees of the city of Brookhaven,” Massengill said.