To pay or not to pay? That was the question earlier this week when Chelsea town leaders voted to adopt an updated policy for military leave pay.

Although Capt. Jeff Rinehart and Officer Doug May, with the Chelsea Police Department, are paid by the National Guard while on two weeks duty, city officials voted Monday night to grant military leave pay as well.

“I say the city should pay them for when they are on military duty,” Mayor Kenny Weast said at Monday’s meeting.

Trustee Howard Drake disagreed.

“I think the city should make up what the National Guard doesn’t pay to equal their salary,” he said.

According to Rinehart, National Guardsmen are paid according to rank and time served. Guardsmen are required, each year, to attend two weeks and one weekend of military training.

Adopting a policy to pay the men to equal their city employee salary is not feasible, Rinehart told the town Board.

“If you adopt it the way you want, you’ll never have to pay us a dime because we’ll always make more money than we do here,” Rinehart said.

Recently, both Rinehart and May were deployed to New Orleans, La., for one and a half months following the damage from hurricane Katrina. Neither men were paid for that leave, and the city has adopted a new policy concerning military leave that lasts longer than two weeks.

Police Chief Kenny Kelsey has a

different perspective on leave and it has more to do with having enough available personnel than money.

Although reserve officers were used to fill in for Rinehart and May while away at their recent military training, Kelsey said comp time could hamper his office’s ability to serve the public.

“Giving comp time would take away two officers again for another two weeks,” Kelsey said..

However, Weast said the board would consider that when the issue arises again.

Rinehart and May were approved to receive two weeks of pay from the city, and the new policy passed by a vote of 2-1, with Drake opposing.

The previous policy concerning military leave stated that those on military leave would be paid for two weeks. Anything beyond two weeks was to be handled on a case by case basis.

Adopted Monday, the policy now reads, “Any city employee who serves in the Reserves/ National Guard may be compensated, monetarily or with compensatory time, up to two weeks while on military leave upon approval of the town board.”

The large City of Claremore has a more generous policy concerning military leave.

Bert Wagner, director of human resources and safety with the city, said employees who are reservists in the Armed Forces or members of the National Guard, “... will be paid for twenty (20) days and granted any additional time off needed for military training.”

Both the ordinance for Chelsea and Claremore state time off due to military training or leave will not be considered as vacation time.