PARIS — A disagreement over the number of hours a part-time firefighter works has prompted one selectman to refuse to sign certain payroll warrants the past few months.

It has also prompted Fire Chief Scott Hunter to revise a policy to specify the number of hours a week they are allowed to work. 

Board Vice Chairman Scott Buffington said allowing Capt. Mark Blaquiere to work an average of more than 50 hours some weeks is “bad management.”

Hunter and Town Manager Vic Hodgkins disagreed, saying the hours are within federal labor law regulations.

As an officer, Blaquiere is paid $12.20 per hour.

At a board meeting earlier this year, Buffington brought a policy that states part-time firefighters are to work no more than 36 hours a week and not accrue overtime.

At last week’s board meeting, Hodgkins said emergency personnel work under federal labor guidelines.

“The current fire chief is comfortable with the employee working that number of hours and I support my fire chief,” Hodgkins said.

“I don’t know how any of us can sit here with a straight face and say that somebody working an average of 50 hours a week when it’s not an emergency situation is something we can stomach or put up with. It seems like poor management to me,” Buffington said.

“The way that I’m running this town, and again I am running this town, is that I let the managers manage and I manage the managers,” Hodgkins said.

Buffington reminded Hodgkins he works at the will of selectmen.

During a recent phone interview, Hunter said he was unaware of the policy Buffington mentioned until he found it on former Fire Chief Brad Frost’s computer. Hunter said he showed it to the 16 part-time firefighters and they told him they had never seen it.

He said since he became chief, the part-timers have worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act, specifically following sections for law enforcement and protection employees. It allows part-timers to have a 53-hour workweek, with no overtime, he said.

Hunter confirmed that Blaquiere has not worked any overtime.

“Mark is an excellent employee,” he said. “He does well above and beyond what is required of him to do,” Hunter said. Blaquiere does what needs to be done at the Town Office, including shoveling the roof. “We’re trying to work with the town and I think we’re doing that.”

“I get the whole overtime part,” he said. “I get it, but I can’t control what we have for fires and for how long. As far as sending somebody home in the middle of a fire, no, not if I need them.”

Buffington said last week that the situation concerns him. 

“You have one firefighter consistently working 50 hours a week in the absence of any fire emergencies,” he said. “Why would you want to have them capped at the maximum hours they can work? What if there is a fire?”

Voters in 2010 approved having part-time firefighters to help with daytime coverage, and Buffington suggested when the proposal was “sold to the taxpayers” the part-timers weren’t supposed to work more than 36 hours.

“Another mind-set is, well, maybe we should just rewrite the policy,” he said.

Hunter did, specifying that per-diems are allowed to work 36 to 53 hours per week under federal guidelines.

Both Hunter and Hodgkins noted that deciding employee hours is under the jurisdiction of department heads and the town manager.

“My comment to that would be, the select board has to approve every single check that comes out of that Town Office,” Buffington said. “You can’t tell me we don’t have a final say in what’s going on.” 

[email protected]

Mark Blaquiere


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.