NORTH ADAMS -- Salary increases for nonunion employees and police dispatchers will be scrutinized by the city's Finance Committee following Tuesday's meeting of the City Council.
City Councilors voted to send the request for the salary increases and $5,000 annual stipends for the city's police and fire directors and the city's police lieutenant, to the Finance Committee for review. The committee will have until the council's Feb. 12 meeting to return a report.
Nonunion employees would receive a 1 percent raise effective Jan. 1 and a 1 percent raise retroactive to July 1, 2012. Police dispatchers would receive a 1 percent raise effective on Jan. 1 and a 1 percent raise retroactive to July 1, 2012, as well as an 8 percent "adjustment" effective on Jan. 1. Funding is available for the raises.
The request, submitted by Mayor Richard J. Alcombright, also includes the reclassification of the part-time clerical position in the Public Services department, adjusting the position's wage from $10.28 to $12.24 per hour.
"The increases for all nonunion staff members has already been included in the fiscal year 2013 departmental line-items," the mayor said. "All of the increases for the dispatchers will be funded through the city's Verizon 911 grant. That being said, our dispatchers remain the lowest paid, compared to their peers in neighboring communities. With this adjustment, it will bring them closer to the pay of their peers, but they are still 5 to 15 percent behind their peers."
He added that the stipends for the police lieutenant, along with the police and fire directors, is the result of the city's new public safety structure and the duties being taken on by those individuals.
"Since we have not changed the ordinance and are technically under the commissioner form of management, we need to put these changes in as stipends," he said. "When we rewrite and adopt the ordinance, these stipends will roll into their salaries."
Councilor John Barrett III voiced his concerns about the raises, stating that "several of the positions deserved raises" but he did not believe all of the raises were needed nor should they be "bunched" together in a single request.
"I think it's unconscionable for any city employee making over $60,000 to receive a raise," he said.
While he did not take issue with the stipends for the public safety officers, he did state that he could not justify a part-time clerk being reclassified to a wage that was higher than those of the city's reserve officers.
"Why is there no increase for our reserve officers?" Barrett questioned.
Alcombright said the reclassification for the part-time clerk was based on added responsibilities, including coverage of his office when his administrative assistant was on lunch break or out on vacation.
"I think we need to give raises equitably," Barrett said. "Is there additional money in the budget for this part-time clerical position? I didn't see it. ... This city cannot continue this course of spending, spending, spending. You can't raise a budget by $1 million a year and only raise revenues by $300,000 a year."
Councilor Alan Marden, chairman of the Finance Committee, suggested the council hold off on any approval of the raises until after Gov. Deval Patrick releases his fiscal 2014 budget.
In other business, the council re-elected Councilor Michael Bloom as its president for the year, with Barrett voting against his nomination. Councilor Nancy Bullett was absent. Councilor Lisa Blackmer was unanimously re-elected as the council's vice president.
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Council liaison & committee assignments
2013 Liaison Assignments
* John Barrett III: Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts; Berkshire Visitors Bureau
* Lisa Blackmer: Berkshire Chamber of Commerce; Office of Tourism;
* Keith Bona: Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art; McCann School Committee
* David Bond: Northern Berkshire Community Coalition; Northern Berkshire Industrial Park and Development
* Jennifer Breen: Hoosac Water Quality District; North Adams Housing Authority
* Nancy Bullett: North Adams School Committee; North Adams Parks & Recreation Commission
* Marie Harpin: Planning Board; Traffic Commission
* Alan Marden: North Adams Retirement Board; North Adams Board of Health
2013 Committee Assignments
* Community Development Committee: Chairman David Bond; John Barrett III, Nancy Bullett
* Finance Committee: Chairman Alan Marden, Lisa Blackmer, David Bond
* General Government Committee: Chairman Keith Bona; Marie Harpin, Jennifer Breen
* Public Safety Committee: Chairwoman Lisa Blackmer, Keith Bona, Jennifer Breen
* Public Services Committee: Chairwoman Nancy Bullett; Alan Marden, Marie Harpin