Dracut Town manager Jim Duggan.
Dracut Town manager Jim Duggan.

DRACUT -- Town Manager Jim Duggan has hired an outside firm to determine whether or not the town has appropriately applied a law that aims to close the pay gap for town employees in military service.

Duggan said his internal meeting with Melanson & Heath, a public accounting firm, is this Thursday. The cost for hiring the firm was not immediately available Tuesday.

The move stems from the now-deferred article sponsored by well-known Dracut firefighter Justin George, who also serves as a medic for the National Guard. George's article looks to adopt Mass. General Laws Chapter 33, Section 59, under which public employees who serve in the military are paid fully while fulfilling their military service obligations through drills and training. The benefit from this law is up to 34 days.

"As I've said, once the auditor confirms the method to which we apply the current law to our municipal employees who serve in active duty, I'll consider the issue closed and would expect the Article that was postponed until the November Town Meeting be withdrawn," Duggan wrote Monday in a text message to a Sun reporter.

George, who said this week that he deferred the article to create and present an actual cost and impact to the town, said he was glad that hopefully there will be a resolution.

"I've been asking for this since I've been on the department because I didn't think the math or the answer of what it entails -- the current bylaw -- made sense," George said.


Advertisement

"This was the initial hope, to get this solved."

George has said this isn't about him being paid more, but about the principle.

According to Duggan, the Board of Selectmen have requested that Dracut Fire Chief David Brouillette evaluate past practices and time away over the past year of any fire department personnel with military responsibilities.

"They wanted to understand the impact financially within the department," Duggan said.

Selectman Tony Archinski, who was away on vacation last month when the Board of Selectmen voted 3-1 to not recommend the article ahead of Town Meeting, said he would have voted like Selectman Tami Dristiliaris. He's in favor of the article.

"I prefer to stay out of the weeds and I can boil the fat off the bone and I can basically say it really boils down to 'Do you want to support our men and women in uniform, or not?'" Archinski said.

Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.