Selectmen consider how to fill police and fire vacancies

The Southborough police and fire departments are each down an employee, and both chiefs went before the Board of Selectmen last week for approval on how to fill the vacancies. They got very different answers.

In the case of the police department, Police Chief Jane Moran told selectmen that one of her officers is out on disability after he was injured on the job. His return date is uncertain. The officer’s shifts have been covered by a reserve officer, but state law says if the reserve officer continues to fill in, he will be eligible for benefits.

The selectmen said they didn’t have an issue paying medical benefits, but they were concerned that if the reserve officer’s hours were reduced when the injured officer returned to work, the town would be responsible for paying out unemployment benefits.

Selectmen voted unanimously to fill the shifts through overtime instead of with the reserve officer. “I’m comfortable with you filling the shifts with overtime because in the long run it’s cheaper than the town being responsible for unemployment benefits,” Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf said.

Moran said the decision would further strain her already under-staffed department. “This will put additional stress on our department. We’re just packed,” Moran told selectmen. “I’m doing the best I can with the budget I have.”

You can read more about the police department vacancy in this article by the Metrowest Daily News, and this one.

On the flip side, the fire department has found themselves with a vacancy after one of their firefighters/paramedics resigned to take a position in his hometown. Fire Chief John Mauro, Jr. told selectmen that if he was not allowed to hire someone new into the position, he would have to use overtime to fill the vacancy.

Selectmen unanimously voted to allow him to advertise the position and hire a new firefighter/paramedic.

“The difference between the fire department and and police department is this is an identified vacancy,” Phaneuf said of the fire department spot.

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