After council error, Bucksport approves $5,000 in EMT back pay

Posted Sept. 28, 2012, at 11:31 a.m.

BUCKSPORT, Maine — After two false starts, the town on Thursday finally approved more than $5,000 in back pay for members of Bucksport’s Ambulance Service.

It was the second vote on the issue, after councilors erroneously declared the back pay approved at a meeting earlier this month. At that meeting, the council “approved” the resolve 3-2, despite town rules that dictated four affirmative votes are needed to approve a resolve.

The retroactive pay covers a period from July 1 through Aug. 30, and amounts to the difference between an old pay structure and the new one that included pay raises for first responders and the addition of “pager pay,” which compensates EMTs for time spent on call.

Some councilors opposed the back pay because it was made necessary by Director of Emergency Services Craig Bowden prematurely adopting the new scheduling and pay arrangement. Bowden told his crew on July 1 that the new system was in place, even though the council hadn’t approved it yet. Bowden took responsibility for the mistake, and said it was a result of miscommunication.

Mayor David Keene attempted to make amends Thursday for the error in process.

“I’ve got to apologize to the ambulance service and the community,” he said before explaining proper procedure for council decision making.

The vote Thursday ultimately was approved 5-1. Councilor Robert Howard changed his vote without comment, and Councilor Byron Vinton, who was absent when the initial Sept. 13 vote was taken but had previously voiced strong opposition to the back pay resolve, voted for it.

Vinton said he still was upset that Bowden had implemented policy before it was approved by the council, but said the question needed to be resolved so the town could move on.

“There was not anyone more upset when this issue arose,” he said. But “I realize that we need to get by this and get past it and get on with our lives, individually and as a town.”

Councilor Michael Ormsby cast the sole vote against the resolve, maintaining his position that it essentially served as a “pass” for improper town action.

“My vote has nothing to do with being against firemen [many of whom are EMTs],” he said. “It has everything to do with not following proper procedure.”

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.

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