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Middletown considers drug testing changes

By Ryan Cornell

MIDDLETOWN -- Town Council is considering a revision in its drug and alcohol testing policies.

Currently, procedures dictate that testing occurs "on a random basis for all employees." Councilwoman Carole Snyder, who chairs the personnel committee, said she thinks the wording should be expanded.

"It doesn't say anything about when they have to go, who is in charge of sending them or making sure they appear, and whose responsibility is that they get there," she said.

Snyder presented her draft of the revised policy to council members at a committee meeting on Tuesday.

"All employees are subject to random drug testing by our approved medical facility [Amherst Family Practice]," she read. "Any notice received by the department head before noon on the day of selection is given to the town, the employee must be released and requested to proceed to the medical facility for sampling. If chosen employee is not at work on the day of selection, he must report for testing before he resumes work. Any variants to this policy brought forth by the department head will be the decision of the mayor and town council."

How it normally works, Snyder said, is if Amherst sends the town a fax in the morning randomly selecting an employee, the town will pull that employee for testing by the end of the day. If the clinic sends a notice that afternoon, the employee would report for testing the following morning.

She said police officers and public works employees -- who might be in court or attending to an emergency -- would be excused by their department head and would be tested the morning they returned to "normal duty."

The selected employee wouldn't be notified until he or she was scheduled by the department head for testing.

Council members differed on the duration of prior notice that should be given to department heads.

Councilman John Copeland said he thought more time should be allotted for department heads to schedule a time for their employees after being notified.

"I'd like to see at least a two-day tolerance there, possibly three, for the department head to do the scheduling," he said.

"He could be a witness in a case...or in a jury trial," he added. "If he's involved in some situation like that, he's got to be there when they say he's got to be there."

Snyder said the employee would be granted an exemption by the head of their department and would be brought in for testing once he or she returned from special duties.

Public Works Superintendent Donald Riffey said he's already been following the policy that way.

"If we get the notice on Friday afternoon, we don't tell them, 'Hey, don't do anything out of the ordinary this weekend,'" he said.

"You know, we could laugh about it, but that's what happens if we give them time," Snyder said. "That's why we do random selection."

The town's testing policy will be discussed further at the council's work session on Aug. 4.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com

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