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City employee doubles pay with on-call rates
Sep 01, 2006 12:00 am
A city employee drawing more than twice his annual salary in overtime and on-call pay drew the ire of some city leaders Thursday in a work session examining Lebanon's employee Rules and Regulations.
Audited figures show in the fiscal year 2004-2005, the gas department's leak technician earned more than $71,000 – with $39,134.48 falling into on-call pay.
Furthermore, a survey of on-call policies by City Personnel Director Jim Henderson revealed Lebanon has the most liberal on-call policy of cities surveyed.
Lebanon pays its leak technician 17 hours per week to be on-call at his base pay rate of $16.52 per hour. This comes to nearly $14,000 per year he is paid simply to remain on-call by pager or phone.
In addition to this, Henderson said he receives overtime pay – or time and a half – for every on-call hour worked above his 40-hour work week. This means he could get paid up to 2 1/2 times his normal base pay for up to 17 hours of work per week.
Employees in Gallatin receive five on-call hours per week, while cities without on-call pay generally guarantee at least two hours of pay. The City of Springfield employees get 50 cents per hour for every hour on call in addition to the two hours guaranteed pay.
This did not please the two city councilors in attendance, who complained of extraordinarily high overtime and on-call pay when the city is again considering raising gas rates.
"This is the gas department we're talking about, and we're talking about raising gas rates," Ward 6 Councilor Kathy Warmath said.
Public Works Director Jeff Baines reminded the councilors the policy has been in place for some time.
"No one at this table made it 17 hours," Baines said.
"Let's don't act like this is business as usual, because it's not," Warmath said.
Baines also said he would have the technician stop installing gas taps Saturday, but instead only address leaks in the gas system.
Ward 1 Councilor Alex Buhler offered a compromise by taking some of the responsibility off the leak technician. Current policy requires the tech to respond within 30 minutes of the call or face disciplinary action.
"I think we need a policy that unless it's an extreme emergency, they've got 24 hours (to fix the problem)," Buhler said. " … It's ridiculous for somebody to get $40,000 in on-call pay."
Public Safety Commissioner Billy Weeks compared the situation to his police department employees, who receive time and a half when called out to an incident but no pay just to be on call.
"There's nothing like when you're in bed … and you get a phone call saying a woman just stepped out in front of a tractor-trailer," Weeks said. " … Somebody's called out every night."
Councilors made no decisions on the issue Thursday but agreed to address it in future work sessions.
Staff Writer Jason Cox can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 45 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.