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Brooksville grants overtime pay for Frances recovery

Instead of granting comp time to Brooksville's seven department heads for long hours worked after Frances passed, the city manager recommended paying them overtime.

Between Sept. 4 and 6, those salaried employees worked an average of 28 hours of overtime, which cost the city's storm reserves $8,648.32, according to city records.

Salaried employees will receive the overtime pay even though the city's personnel policy prohibits them from receiving additional funds.

Blame it on Frances.

City Manager Richard Anderson said that because the city does not have any full-time emergency management workers, an additional demand was placed on employees who were trained to assist in emergencies. Those employees, mostly members of the Brooksville Emergency Response Team, worked through the Labor Day weekend to prepare for the storm and recover from it.

For that reason, the city's personnel policy allows overtime for the exempted group.

"It is not something we just sit around and do," Anderson said Friday.

The activation of BERT, officials said, supplanted the regular pay provisions, triggering the city's "emergency" pay schedule.

A review of the Federal Emergency Management Agency after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 created the stipulation, designed to address pay issues pertaining to emergency workers.

Salaried employees' pay is to be converted to an hourly rate and increased 25 percent. An additional 50 percent is given for overtime, according to the provision.

But Frances resulted in less damage than anticipated, so the seven department heads received their regular pay and overtime. That simply means that they were compensated at the same rate as hourly employees.

For example, police Chief Ed Tincher, who doubled as the city's emergency management director and equipment operator during Frances, received the biggest payout _ $2,050 for working 44 hours of overtime, records show.

Salaried employees are paid a set rate regardless of how many hours worked above their 40-hour work week, the city's personnel policy says. Those employees, though, are allowed to accrue comp time.

Overtime records show that only City Clerk Karen Phillips and community development director Bill Geiger requested comp time instead of cash.

Although Anderson acknowledged that some employees were paid more or less than they would under "emergency" pay, he said the approach was both fair and frugal.

The cost of the 25 percent pay increase and revisions to employees' schedules would have been substantially higher than treating all the employees the same, he said.

While figures on how much the "emergency" pay would have cost the city were not available, Public Works director Emory Pierce, for example, could have received about $2,196.21 had Anderson chosen the plan. Rather, he was entitled to $1,171.20 for working 28 hours of overtime, the records show.

"The bottom line, I think the approach was equitable and it saved the city a lot of money," Anderson wrote in a Sept. 16 memo.

The county, on the other hand, has not decided how employees will be compensated for working during the three storms.

Human Resources director Barbara Dupre said it is likely that salaried employees who are not department heads will be compensated, but she could not say whether directors could receive the same pay. Officials are gathering data from the storms to determine the costs before County Administrator Gary Adams makes a decision.

City Clerk Phillips said municipal employees had been placed on standby for Ivan but no overtime expenses were involved. There were some overtime expenses for Jeanne, however.

Duane Bourne can be reached at (352) 754-6114 or dbournesptimes.com.

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