SFD medic’s deployment leads to policy amendment
By Shaun Moriarty
Citizen Chronicle Writer
SOUTHBRIDGE — Town employees on active military duty will now receive pay while deployed in the nation’s service.
The Town Council voted 7-0 to amend the Town’s non-collective bargaining unit employees personnel rules and regulations, allowing any Town employee who is a member of an armed forces reserve or National Guard unit to receive pay during the time of active service if called to active duty. Employees will be paid the difference between their salary normally received through employment with the Town and their base military pay, provided the military pay is a lesser amount. The amendment is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2018. To honor their service, they will also be given tokens.
The policy change stems from the military service of Southbridge Fire Department medic Mike Struppa, who has been deployed overseas, and is serving as a flight medic. The Fire Department has not had an active duty service member since the Vietnam War. Since that time, state law has been updated over the years to resolve pay discrepancies for those deployed in service of the United States, while towns throughout the commonwealth decide whether they will adopt that same language for local affairs.
Fire Chief Mark DiFronzo thanked the Town Council for their support.
“It is the right thing to do,” Councilor Rick Nash said on Monday night. “I’m glad it’s something we can all agree on.”
Council Chairwoman Denise Clemence agreed, adding: “I’m glad that we could work this out.”
The lone debate on the policy change centered around whether an employee would be eligible for holiday pay if they would have normally been scheduled to work at that time.
“Public safety people typically have to work a holiday,” Chief DiFronzo said, noting other municipal employees typically would not have to work on a legal holiday. He suggested firefighters would be paid for every hour they would have normally worked.
Councilor Monique Manna suggested the holiday pay be determined “on a case-by-case basis,” but the consensus was ultimately to support the fire chief’s recommendation.
The change applies to all nonunion personnel, not just firefighters and police. Officials believe Mr. Struppa is currently the only town employee eligible for the pay.