Personnel policies and wording in municipal handbooks were the focus of the discussion Monday at a combined meeting of the city public works, budget and personnel, and police and fire committees.
The Public Works Committee approved modifications clarifying to a policy on how abandoned vehicles are handled. The changes were made at the advice of city attorney Jimmy Taylor, who said the wording would better fit the need if court action is required.
The committee approved sending the modified ordinance to the full city council for consideration and also recommended the repeal of two city ordinances made redundant by the changes.
For the Budget and Personnel Committee, city human resources director Brian Higgins addressed many of the issues raised in regard proposed employee handbook.
A reference to outdated population figures has been removed because it seemed to be unnecessary, Higgins said.
He also removed a requirement that employees with commercial driver’s licenses also have a medical after the requirement received some criticism. He said he re-examined his source for advice about the card but found no justification for it.
A medical requirement can be met by a standard physical, Higgins said.
Alderman Patrick Hutton said he remains “uncomfortable” with the city paying 100 percent of the tuition for employees attending college courses.
“I have not found anywhere else that does this,” he said.
The committee approved sending the proposed handbook to the city council for action.
The committee returned to discussion of the proposed Cabot Fire Department Handbook
Fire Chief Phil Robinson said two handbooks have been combined for easier use by the city’s firefighters.
Many of the proposed changes to standard operating procedures and the department’s physical fitness program were reviewed at an April meeting.
The words “never” and “always” have, for the most part, been removed, and replaced with other words, the chief said. An entry on the use of alcohol has been changed.
Alderman Rick Prentice pointed out a reference to “never” using alcohol in some circumstances. Robinson said the page was inserted in error and should be removed.
Alderman Patrick Hutton said he would prefer to see the entire Code of Ethics removed, and replaced with more easily enforced and understood wording. Too many of the terms are open to interpretation. Words such as “positively” are too vague, he said.
The code is more appropriate for a poster encouraging firefighters with goals to strive toward but is difficult to enforce in a handbook, Hutton said.
He also questioned the procedures for promotion testing that require retesting if a promotion is not made in a particular cycle.
Robinson said that retesting is preferred because of the numerous changes that can occur in the course of a year.
Also, Hutton asked whether the city supplies the wristwatch that is required for personal equipment.
Robinson said the firefighters get an equipment allowance that would cover the cost.
Also discussed was a requirement to cover tattoos that could bring discredit upon the fire department.
In public comments, resident Thomas Astin criticized Hutton for his questioning.
“All the questions [Hutton] has asked here tonight should be between the chief and his people, the chief and the mayor,” Astin said.