BELLOWS FALLS — The Bellows Falls Village Trustees have rejected a grievance filed by the unionized members of the Bellows Falls Police Department over their pay for providing coverage during the Bellows Falls Alumni Parade.
The trustees met behind closed doors for about 30 minutes to discuss the grievance Tuesday night, and later voted to reject the grievance from Local 410 of the New England Police Benevolent Association.
The dispute centers around the rate of pay for officers called in to provide extra coverage during the Bellows Falls Alumni Parade, which this year was held Sunday, June 18.
According to Bellows Falls Village President Deborah Wright, it was the first time the union had filed a grievance regarding the parade, which is an annual event, although it had been cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She said that section of the contract was relatively new.
Wright said the union was seeking $55 an hour pay for those extra officers working the parade, with a four-hour minimum. The parade typically lasts about an hour, Wright said.
At issue is language in the contract the union has with the village that triggers a $55 hour rate, with a four-hour minimum, if the village is paying a third party to provide police coverage to a non-municipal organization. If the officers have worked more than 40 hours in the week, she said, they would be entitled to time and a half. Currently, only two officers are on duty at any time.
In the case of the Bellows Falls Alumni Parade, the village doesn’t bill the Bellows Falls Alumni Association for the parade coverage, but only for the dance on Friday night, Wright said, and thus the $55 rate didn’t apply.
Under the union’s thinking, she said, “it would extend to every parade.”
The grievance was reviewed and rejected by Police Chief David Bemis, reviewed and rejected by Municipal Manager Scott Pickup, and most recently, rejected by the village trustees.
Since both Pickup and the trustees have rejected the grievance, the union has the option of asking for the issue to go to arbitration, Wright said.
She said that Pickup and Village Attorney Josh Stern would respond to the union, explaining the trustees’ decision.
Bellows Falls Police Cpl. Michael Keefe, who is president of the local union, couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.