Thornton considers extending benefits for military employees

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Thornton City Council is considering a city ordinance revision to provide financial help to city employees in the military if they are called for active duty and deployed for an assignment.

The proposal, which was presented by city staff during council’s Jan. 5 planning session, would amend the city’s personnel code to permanently provide city employees with supplemental benefits while they are deployed for active duty.

Deputy City Manager Charlie Long said the move would provide a permanent solution to an issue that was considered and approved by several city council boards since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that prompted the deployment of thousands of military personnel nationwide.

Before the attacks, Long said, the city provided a 15-day military leave period to cover a city employee’s wages and benefits while he or she participated in annual training exercises.

That later changed in December 2011, when council approved the first resolution that provided temporary extended military leave benefits for city employees called to active duty for a specific period of time.

The resolution, which was extended four more times, authorized the city to pay the difference between an employee’s military compensation and regular wages in addition to other continuing benefits, such as health insurance, while employees were deployed for Operations Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom.

The latest resolution to authorize the extension of these benefits was approved by the city on Oct. 9, 2007, and ended on Dec. 31, 2008. Since then, no other city employee has been called for active duty.

Long said that changed when a Thornton Police Department officer received his deployment order in December 2012. He said the city expects several additional people to receive deployment orders over the next few weeks.

Ward 3 Councilwoman Beth Humenik said she was in favor of indefinitely extending the benefits.

“When these guys get called up, their military pay isn’t that great, so I think it’s very important to have this in place because they’re still a (city) employee,” Humenik said.

Ward 2 Councilman Val Vigil agreed.

“I’m very, very supportive of the men and women that will go out and fight for us and support us,” Vigil said. “It must be a huge hardship for somebody’s family when they have to take off and be deployed and be left with no additional benefits here, and I think we can help out there.”

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