The China selectmen’s special meeting Dec. 28 was called primarily to review Town Manager Becky Hapgood’s proposed changes in the town’s personnel policy.
The only other issue on the agenda was action on the Broadband Committee’s Request for Proposals for improved and expanded broadband service in town. Selectmen unanimously approved the document after 10 minutes’ discussion.
The new Maine Earned Paid Leave Law had to be added to the personnel policy by Jan. 1, 2021, its effective date, Hapgood explained.
According to information on the web from the state Department of Labor, the law requires employers with more than 10 employees to grant an hour of paid leave for each 40 hours worked, up to 40 hours a year.
All employees are covered. Their paid leave can be used for any purpose, with the stipulation that in a non-emergency situation, the employee is to give the employer as much notice as possible.
Selectmen considered among other things whether to combine paid leave with older forms of paid time off, like sick leave, bereavement leave and vacation time. They decided to incorporate it as Hapgood recommended for now and to revisit the issue within the next three months.
They also considered other parts of the policy, beginning with Wayne Chadwick’s question about the town matching the state schedule of days off, specifically around holidays.
“It costs money,” he said of paying employees when they have a holiday. When board Chairman Ronald Breton said there was no extra pay involved, Chadwick replied, “We’re not getting any work for the [regular] pay.”
He added that he did not want to take away holidays or cut anyone’s pay.
Hapgood said China has matched the state schedule for the last 15 or 20 years. Most other Maine towns do the same, she said. When Selectman Blane Casey said next year Christmas Eve will be on Friday and asked if the state would call the whole day a holiday, Hapgood declined to predict.
Casey offered another proposal to save money during discussion of dental and health insurance. China contributes to employee’ insurance costs, and pays a stipend to employees who choose not to take insurance through the town (often because they are covered by a spouse’s policy).
Casey proposed eliminating the stipend. “I’m looking at the tax value to people in town who don’t have any insurance at all,” he said.
The insurance question is also to be reviewed later, and so is a policy on weapons on town property.
The personnel policy is the selectmen’s responsibility; it does not require action by voters and can be adjusted as often as necessary.
Hapgood said China has 14 full-time employees. A majority joined the Dec. 28 virtual meeting. Breton did not allow them to speak, saying the special meeting did not make provision for public comment.
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