SALEM - City officials plan to study the idea of hiring part-time police officers to reduce overtime costs and keep full-time officers from being overworked during short staffing periods.
Councilman K. Bret Apple broached the subject during the Finance Committee meeting Monday night, saying city Auditor Betty Brothers indicated that due to short staffing this summer, with vacations, they could run into a lot of overtime usage.
She calculated the overtime rate paid to full-time officers and what it would cost for part-time police officers and said the city could end up spending less, plus the officers could stay a lot fresher.
The latest wage ordinance already allows for part-time police officers, according to Apple, who said he wanted to put the subject out there now for more detailed discussion at a later meeting. No date has been set for the future meeting.
According to Brothers' figures, a full-time officer making $15.09 per hour gets an overtime rate of $22.63 and that's at the low-end of the payscale. A veteran making $22-plus per hour gets an overtime rate of $33-plus per hour. A part-time patrolman would make $12.10 per hour and work less than 30 hours per week.
She also said the bargaining unit agreed with the idea of part-time patrolmen, but Apple asked that a copy of the bargaining agreement be made available so he could review it.
Mayor John Berlin said he supported what Brothers said and agreed with the need to have part-time patrolmen available. He said he's heard from many officers that they would not object to having part-time patrolmen work for the city.
Brothers said one of the city's new officers has already accrued 100 hours of compensatory time.
In another matter dealing with part-timers, the committee agreed to recommend council approve some changes to the fringe benefits ordinance, specifically to restrict the use of sick days to permanent part-time police dispatchers.
Brothers recommended cleaning up the language in the ordinance, noting there was some confusion because part-time workers were accumulating sick leave, but nothing in the ordinance said they could use it, with the exception of the permanent part-time dispatchers, although some other part-time employees were using it. She also noted that dispatchers won't be able to cash out their sick leave when they leave their job.
Part-time employees will still accrue sick leave so if they become full-time employees, they'll receive credit for what they've accrued.
In other business, the committee agreed to recommend a raise of $2.45 per hour for the city street foreman at the urging of Berlin, who said there was a disparity between what the street foreman was receiving and what other supervisors in other departments received compared to the people below them. His original proposal was for $2.12 per hour, but he increased it after looking at the percentage difference in a comparison with the Utilities Department.
The increase will take the street foreman's pay to $24.04 per hour and cost the city an additional $196 per pay, which equates to more than $5,000 per year.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org