NORTH ADAMS -- Two months after changes to the city's Classification and Compensation Plan were first proposed, raises for the city's nonunion employees and police dispatchers have been approved.
The raises and a reclassification of a part-time clerk in the Public Works Department have been at the center of a heated debate led by City Councilor John Barrett III. Over the last two months, he challenged the reclassification of the clerk position, which raises the position's hourly rate by $1.93, and the absence of raises for the city's reserve police officers.
Mayor Richard J. Alcombright urged the council to approve the changes, stating the increases he was asking for had already been approved as budget line items or are grant funded.
"I'm not asking for any additional money. You've already approved the funding of these raises," he said.
The council approved the raises and the reclassification, 7 to 1, with Barrett casting the lone vote against the changes to the plans. Council President Michael Bloom was absent Tuesday night.
However, the approval did not come without debate, as Barrett proposed an amendment to the compensation plan, which would have raised the per diem rate of reserve officers from $98 to $115, and raised the shift differential pay from 3 percent to 5 percent.
"This is for the reserve officers, who went into July 1, 2010 with the exact same salary as they are at now in 2013," he said. "It seems as if this group of individuals is grossly underpaid and have not been kept up with the nonunion employees."
Councilor Jennifer Breen said the while she agreed with Barrett's observation that the reserve officers appear to be underpaid, she also thought it was an arbitrary reason for the amendment.
"It's not our role to determine salaries," she said. "It is our role to approve or not to approve the budget."
Barrett shot back that adjusting the salaries falls under the council's purview.
"It is our responsibility as a legislative body," he said.
The amendment was defeated 6-2 with only Barrett and Councilor Marie Harpin voting in favor of it.
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 the dispatchers. Also included in the approval are $5,000 stipends for the fire director, as well as the police director and lieutenant. Funding for the dispatchers' salaries will come from the city's Verizon 911 grant.
As part of Tuesday's meeting, Alcombright delivered his annual "State of the City" address, highlighting the numerous ongoing projects in the city, including the privatization of Heritage State Park, the city's partnership with MCLA on the Mohawk Theater, a new solar project, the Walmart Supercenter and the expansion of Crane.
He also touched on the city's budget planning process.
"As I build the budget, we are putting together a comprehensive capital plan outlining the short-, mid- and long-term needs of the city," the mayor said. "The list will include everything from vehicles to building infrastructure to our water and sewer systems. I am certain this document will bring to light the many capital and infrastructure issues facing the city and the reason we all will have to work together to begin to address what are truly overwhelming needs."