Pubdate: Fri, 12 Mar 2004
Source: Hampton Union, The (NH)
Copyright: 2004 Seacoast Online.
Author: Susan Morse
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


SEABROOK - Passage of a petitioned warrant article mandating random 
drug-and-alcohol testing for all town employees, including volunteers who 
serve on town boards, raised a host of questions Wednesday at the Board of 
Selectmen's meeting.

The warrant article, which passed 1,521 votes to 464, is now a town 
ordinance, Town Manager Fred Welch said.

Volunteers serving on boards such as the Planning Board and the Budget 
Committee will be subject to the new ordinance, said Welch. So will those 
who volunteer to coach sport teams or who teach classes at the Seabrook 
Recreation Department.

"Volunteers are employees under (state) statute," he said.

Since being a selectman is a 24-hour job, said Selectman Asa Knowles, does 
this mean he can't ever have drink for fear of being tested? Hospitals 
generally do the testing between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., said Welch.

The test's alcohol limit is half of that of the state limit of .08, said 
Welch. Employees are already banned from having alcohol during lunch.

Anyone testing positive for drugs or alcohol would be subject to the town's 
alcohol-and-drug policy, said Welch, including a section on rehabilitation. 
Last updated in the late 1990s, the policy is murky at best, he indicated.

Drug-and-alcohol testing must become a part of new union contracts, Welch 
said. If union members refuse to add the new law to their contract 
agreements, "there is no contract," said Welch. "There is no middle ground."

Welch said it is up to selectmen to decide whether to reopen the union 
contracts this year or to wait until the contracts come up for 
negotiations, expected within two years.

Seabrook and Winnacunnet school-board members are not subject to the new 
ordinance, said Welch, since the article was on the town ballot only. 
Selectman Karen Knight said the School Board's representative to the Budget 
committee is considered a member of the Bud Committee.

"These are the problems the board will have to wrestle with," Welch said.

"Say goodbye to volunteer boards," said Bruce Cassasa, a volunteer both on 
the Seabrook School Board and Water and Sewer Advisory Committee.

Under the new ordinance, all those working or volunteering for the town 
will be randomly tested for drugs and alcohol every two months or perhaps 
every quarter, said Welch.

Their names will be put into a hospital computer, which will choose a name 
at random. Sometimes a person will be tested three times in a row while 
another will wait a year-and-a-half to be tested, he said.

Each test is expected to cost $40 to $50 and the town is responsible for 
payment. No money was attached to the petitioned article.

Knight, a nurse, said she believed the new ordinance violates 
patient-confidentiality laws if the test results are released to the town.

"The only thing it (the article) says is we have to be tested," she said. 
"It doesn't say it has to be released."

Welch disagreed.

"We're going to go to court over this," said Knight. "Let the court decide."
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