By Margie Plunkett

Police officers will be paid for a full, 104 extra hours they will work annually because of a schedule change to 12-hour shifts, a reverse by Ocean Ridge commissioners who initially agreed to pay for only 44 additional hours.

“The commission felt that since the officers would be working the hours, they should be paid for them at their present salary rate,” Town Manager Ken Schenck said in an e-mail.

Commissioners voted at their Sept. 8 meeting to pull $34,000 from budget reserves to pay for the hours.

The Police Department started moving to 12-hour shifts in late July to ease scheduling and save the town money. Patrolmen were expected to receive the same annual pay, but the new schedule would have meant lower hourly rates and less overtime pay. Commission’s move at the Sept. 8 meeting restored the hourly rate.

Under the 12-hour-shift schedule, officers will work 84 hours every two weeks instead of 80. While sergeants are already working the new schedule, officers are expected to start in November, Schenk said.

The new work schedule doesn’t apply to dispatchers. The town had initially planned to compensate officers for 44 of the 104 added hours by giving them more holiday pay.

Ocean Ridge will see a savings in overtime as officers work four more regular hours each pay period and fewer overtime hours will be required.

Officers voiced concern at the July town meeting when the change was first discussed and later took a step toward unionization with a petition for collective bargaining.

Officers then pointed out that other towns that had made the move to the 12-hour shift had not reduced police officers’ hourly wages.

“Manalapan, Delray Beach, South Palm Beach and Boca Raton pay the four hours to their officers in straight time,” Officer Bob Massamino had told commissioners. “We want what our neighbors get.”

Additional municipalities that earlier made the move included Boynton Beach, Gulf Stream and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, according to Ocean Ridge Police Chief Chris Yannuzzi.

Under the new schedule, officers choose their shift every six months, Yannuzzi said at the July meeting, adding that the schedule means every other weekend off with a three-day weekend.

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