OXFORD — The town clerk has been asked to look into whether other towns offer stipends to town employees in lieu of accepting the town’s health insurance. 

Town Clerk Sheila Cole said at a meeting Thursday night that her marriage made her familiar with the practice.

“I know the town of Turner does (pay the stipend) and Norway does it,” Cole said. “They call it flex pay. For instance, when my husband was working in Norway as a police officer, for not taking their insurance, when he was coming under mine here, he would receive $50 a week.”

Selectman Roger Jackson said the practice is discriminatory.

“If you had two people you hired at the same time,” Jackson argued, “one’s wife works at the hospital, and has a hell of a program, this guy’s getting an extra $50 or an extra 50 percent above and beyond, and this other guy isn’t getting (the same benefit) because he’s not married.”

Selectman Jay Goforth said the practice of paying a stipend in lieu of the employee’s acceptance of town-paid health insurance can save the town money.

“That’s right,” Jackson responded. “This is where you save money. These are union packages.”

Goforth said, “A lot of municipalities spend the (stipend) money.”

“We’re not a lot of them,” Jackson said. “If you take a look at these municipalities, what’s their mill rates?”

“We’re also trying to get extra benefits to attract (employees,)” Selectman Scott Hunter said.

“You do that by wages; you don’t do that by giving people something for nothing,” Jackson said.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Scott Owens suggested the controversy be tabled until Cole provides information from other municipalities.

In other business, selectmen:

* Approved the Fire Department “toll booth” fundraiser for 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 28.

* Set a work session for 6 p.m. April 19. The agenda includes discussing applications for town manager. The application deadline is April 15, and so far 20 candidates have submitted resumes.

* Approved Police Chief Jon Tibbetts as temporary public safety director to assist interim Town Manager Rodney Smith.

* Announced that repair of Oxford Street, near the intersection with Route 26, will begin Monday, April 11.

* Approved the appointment of Susan Milligan to the Recreation Department.

* Heard a suggestion from resident Sue Bowen to erect a building at the transfer station for secondhand items people might want.

* Heard a request from Bill Penfold, owner of Oxford Auto Salvage, that provision be made so local businesses would have the first chance to buy surplus items from the town.

The next selectmen meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 21, at the Town Office.

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