On behalf of as many as 11 fellow city employees, Brian Blankenship asked the Thayer Board of Aldermen Tuesday, Dec. 14, if the city could share costs of commercial drivers' license fees.
Blankenship said many workers are facing difficult economic times and must still pay for costly CDLs to drive city vehicles. Those who drive trucks with air brakes pay additional fees for the license or renewal, he said.
Blankenship said the state fees for the written and driving tests are $25 each, plus the $70 air-brakes endorsement.
"I know you all have never done that in the past, have never discussed that, but times are getting tougher -- on everybody," said Blankenship. "It would benefit us and help us as employees if you would do so."
Blankenship said fees for new hires are even higher than for those who are renewing licenses, although he did not have those figures. At least three city workers drive vehicles with air brakes, he said.
"By law, if we're driving vehicles with air brakes, we have to have (the air-brakes endorsement)," he said. "It's hard for us to go pay for it when we wouldn't use it anywhere but here."
Blankenship said he is only asking the city to pay part of the fees to help employees.
"What happens if we pay this for you and you turn around and quit your job with the city?" resident Coleen Freeman, wife of Alderman Bob Freeman, asked from the audience.
Blankenship said he could not guarantee that every employee would stay with the city.
"You can't even guarantee you'll stay," Coleen Freeman said. "Are you going to reimburse the city if we pay for it?"
Blankenship said again that he is asking the city to help its employees. He said the city would be more liable in accidents if workers do not have the required license.
Coleen Freeman repeated her concern about workers quitting after the city pays the fee.
"That's part of running business," Alderman Freeman said.
"I don't plan on quitting. I can tell you that," Blankenship said. "My kids have got to eat and there are not jobs out there, in case you hadn't noticed. People are unemployed all over America."
Mayor Earl "Buddy" Rogers said the licenses are required for city workers and it would not be unusual for a company to share the cost in such cases. City workers who drive dump trucks or vehicles for the cemetery, water or electric departments must have commercial licenses.
Blankenship said there are employees who drive air-brake vehicles without the proper license.
When an alderman asked why employees would drive a vehicle without a license, Blankenship said they do it to keep their jobs.
"When the boss tells you to do something, you've got to do it or you go home," Blankenship said. "You've got to feed your family."
Freeman motioned for the board to table the issue to study it further before deciding whether to help with costs. The board unanimously agreed.