Chief pay up, per diem staff, training money down in revised Fire, EMS budget

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Lebanon Fire and EMS Chief Dan Meehan, second from left, discusses his revised budget with, from left, selectmen Royce Heath, Paul Nadeau and Selectmen Chair Christine Torno on Thursday night at Town Offices. (Lebanon Voice photo)

LEBANON - Lebanon's Fire and EMS Chief invoked new rules that apply to salaried workers laid down this week by President Obama to press selectmen to increase rather than reduce his weekly pay come July 1, this after townspeople scoffed at a nearly doubling of wages and benefits from last year by rejecting the town's $450,000 fire and EMS budget earlier this month.

"It's something we have to comply with," Chief Dan Meehan told the board on Thursday.

The president's ruling on Wednesday spells out the rules regarding which salaried workers have to be paid overtime once they go over 40 hours.

The old threshold put at $23,660 the annual amount employers had to pay to salaried workers to withhold OT pay, while the new minimum is $47,476, more than double the previous amount.

Meehan's full-time salary line item for his original budget rejected May 10 was $46,800, or $900 a week. On the new budget - in order to comply with President Obama's directive, Meehan asserted - it will have to be $47,476, or $913 weekly, an extra 13 bucks a week.

Meehan reasoned if the town paid him any less than the $47,476, it would be paying him exorbitant overtime pay, adding that he spends up to 60 hours a week going to meetings, answering medical and fire calls, writing emails, taking phone calls and covering regular Lebanon Fire and EMS shifts when someone is sick or can't make it.

The president's move came under the authority of the Fair Labor Standards Act, first passed in 1938, and was exempt from Congressional approval.

Meehan also stated to the board on Thursday that if this budget passes, he will begin the process of retiring from the Rochester Fire Department where he has worked for more than 20 years, but that may take several months during which time he'd be making full-time pay in both Rochester, where he works at the Gonic Firehouse, and Lebanon.

"You just don't say you're going to retire (from Rochester Fire), it takes some time," he said, regarding the overlap.

The chief's revised Fire and EMS budget presented to selectmen on Thursday was forced after town voters handily rejected the department's original proposal, 614-347, with about 6 out of 10 Lebanon residents voting against it.

His original $450,000 bottom line figure, did show about $33,449 in savings at Thursday's meeting. The cuts included lopping $10,000 off the day schedule wages when Station 1 is staffed by two, taking $15,000 off night wages when two are on call from home, cutting $2,000 from training, taking $1,000 off both SCBA and equipment maintenance, cutting paramedic intercept by $1,800 and reducing the medical exams line by $2,000.

Meehan said he took $676 out of the fire supplies budget line to pay for the extra wages in his salary line.

He also noted to the board that about $80,000 generated by ambulance revenue had been deposited back into the town's general fund in the past year.

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