NORTH ADAMS -- Changes to the city's Classification and Compensation Plan were the center of a heated back-and-forth between Mayor Richard J. Alcombright and City Councilor John Barrett III during Tuesday night's City Council meeting.
The changes include a 1 percent raise effective Jan. 1 and a 1 percent raise retroactive to July 1, 2012, for nonunion employees and police dispatchers, as well as an 8 percent "adjustment" increase for police dispatchers. Also included are $5,000 annual stipends for the fire director, as well as the police director and lieutenant. Funding for the dispatcher's salaries will come from the city's Verizon 911 grant.
Additionally, Alcombright has requested that the clerk for the Public Works Department be reclassified, raising the position's hourly rate by $1.93, compensation for additional work taken on.
Barrett said the while he was not opposed to the "rank and file" employees receiving the retroactive 2 percent increases, he did take issue with any nonunion employee making over $60,000 getting a raise. He also took issue with the 20 percent raise for the DPW clerk and the absence of a raise for reserve police officers.
"I honestly believe it still needs refinement over the next few weeks because these are retroactive," he said. "I think this needs to be looked at more closely, especially when I see an employee getting a 20 percent raise when just two years ago, we had to layoff three part-time clerks. I found the increases for the directors to be justifiable because of the additional duties being taken on with the commissioner no longer being there.
"However, I never heard about the additional duties of the [police] lieutenant. I didn't hear if sergeants were taking on more responsibilities. What about the fire lieutenants? Every decision being made here has an impact on others and it could have an impact on the city financially."
Barrett went on to say that he didn't understand how the mayor could "cut the hours of two 80-year-old clerks" who he said were eventually "forced out" and then justify the increase for the DPW clerk.
Alcombright replied that the police sergeants and fire lieutenants are part of their respective unions, unlike the police lieutenant, and said that reserve officer salaries would be discussed as part of the public safety department's budget.
"What I'm simply asking the council to do tonight, and this is getting very frustrating, is to support the increases you voted on when you approved the budget in June," the mayor said. "These raises were budgeted. All I'm asking for is for you to give me the document that allows me to give them the raises we promised these employees."
Alcombright added, "The fact that you [Barrett] can sit there and say that I eliminated jobs and pushed two 80-year-old women out the door is hideous. What we did was eliminate hours. This is not about reserve officers. This is not about adjustments made to hours three years ago. It is about nonunion employee salary increases. It is about raises for our dispatchers through the Verizon grant."
The council voted 7 to 1 to pass the Compensation and Classification Plans to a second reading and for each to be published as a municipal bulletin. Barrett cast the dissenting vote. Councilor Jennifer Breen was absent.
Prior to passing the plans to a second reading, the council amended the language of the classification plan order to reflect the elimination of the DPW clerk's original classification and to replace it with a new classification designation. The mayor will also refer the amendment to the city solicitor for review to ensure that it does not eliminate the other employee classifications on the plan.
In other action, the council unanimously accepted Massachusetts Municipal Health Care Reform law, approved its Council's Rules of Order and approved the purchase of the rear of 177 River St., which the city had encroached upon when it built the Houghton Street playground several years ago.
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