BUCKSPORT, Maine — EMTs who thought they would receive back pay for time on the job between July 1 and Aug. 31 after a Bucksport Town Council meeting last week had another thing coming.
Councilors on Sept. 13 approved new pay rates and scheduling procedures by a 3-2 vote. Fire and EMS Chief Craig Bowden told the EMTs the new pay rates would start July 1, a month and a half before the council ultimately voted on the changes.
Bowden took responsibility for the mistake, but told councilors his employees shouldn’t suffer for his mistake. Now, the vote will have to be conducted again after the town checked its rules and saw that a simple majority of present councilors doesn’t always result in a proposal’s approval.
“We need four positive votes to pass [a resolve],” said Town Manager Mike Brennan on Friday. “It’s not simply the majority of a quorum.”
The council first took up the question at its Aug. 23 meeting, but tabled it until the next meeting. At least one emergency worker said he’s getting tired of the back-and-forth about back pay.
“People keep saying that the EMTs acted in good faith, that they’d get this money,” said EMT Intermediate Mike Sealy.
Sealy said he believes Bowden made an honest mistake, that the chief believed he had the council’s go-ahead to start operating under the proposed rules. Sealy said he’s owed between $650 and $700 in back-pay under the new pay scale — money he was told last week he would receive.
He’s upset that the council seemingly approved the pay last week only to find out its own vote was invalid.
“I’m just getting tired of expecting something to happen and it not happening,” he said. “Once we found out last week it was approved, that was going to fill my oil tank for the first bill. Now I’m gonna have to wait until October.”
Councilors Byron Vinton III and Joel Wardwell were absent at the Sept. 13 meeting, and their votes take on a new importance. If they vote against the back pay provision, that means Bucksport’s EMTs will be out the $5,330 they thought was coming.
Reached Friday for comment, Vinton said he hasn’t decided how he will vote on the new rules and back pay.
“I listened to the tape from the last meeting,” he said. “I’m maintaining my neutrality at this point because I want to hear everything before I vote. I don’t like to make up my mind ahead of time.”
Wardwell was unreachable on Friday afternoon.
The Town Council will again take up the EMT back pay issue at its Sept. 27 meeting.
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.