FARMINGTON — Local police officers have taken on covering the local FairPoint Communications strikers 24 hours a day until Oct. 31.
About seven or eight employees work out of the office on Fairbanks Road, Farmington police Sgt. Michael Adcock said as he watched Local 2327 members picket Tuesday morning.
Initially, FairPoint asked the department to cover until 4 p.m. Oct. 22, but the date has been extended to midnight Oct. 31, he said. If the strike ends sooner the coverage will end, he said.
“We’re here making sure nothing gets out of control, property is not damaged or new contractors are not harassed,” he said of potential part-time employees who may cross the picket line if the strikes continues.
A faint orange line on the parking lot tar marks where the picketing employees may not cross, he said.
The officers are taking eight-hour shifts at the site and FairPoint is paying the department $45 an hour, Bonnie Pomeroy, Police Department secretary, said. The cost covers the officers’ pay, overtime and benefits. The company is also paying a separate charge of $90 a day for the cruiser parked at the site.
“They pay for it,” Deputy Chief Shane Cote said. “There are no taxpayer dollars used.”
It also means the department is manning two 24-hour operations, Cote said. One operation provides the regular town coverage and the second covers the picket site.
“It’s about safety,” FairPoint spokeswoman Angelynne Beaudry said. “We engage officers to help address safety.”
It is done just as the company engages local authorities for construction projects that may impede the roadway to provide general safety for customers and employees, she said.
Officers have been hired at other FairPoint picketing sites.
“Appropriate steps in other markets to address safety have been taken,” Beaudry said.
So far, the Farmington site has been quiet, Adcock said, as he left the cruiser to talk with the picketers.
The Farmington officers appreciate the overtime pay so far, but that will probably wane as the days continue, Cote said.
Some officers are using the time in the cruiser to catch up on current laws as they watch the picketers, he said.