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Belmont considers special town meeting to address union contract

May 05, 2010
BELMONT — If the Board of Selectmen agrees to hold a special town meeting, voters will be asked to reconsider a warrant article that failed in March.

The warrant article asking for voters to approve a contract agreement with public safety employees failed, though a nearly identical article for public works employees passed.

"There was some confusion between the two articles," Board of Selectmen Chair Ron Cormier said at the board's meeting Monday night. "A lot of people thought (they had to choose) one or the other."

Cormier said the only difference between the two articles was the union number.

"Unless you read them very closely, you appeared to be voting on (the same thing) twice," he said. "I could see how it could be confusing for somebody."

Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin said there are no changes to the cost items in the reworked warrant article that would be presented at the special town meeting. The wording has changed to better clarify the contract request, and to incorporate the Evergreen Clause that was effective as of April 1, giving public safety employees a 1.5 percent step increase.

Cormier said the cost items in the article were "relatively minimal," because the town's new prescription plan offset the majority of the wage changes.

In discussing the potential timeline for a special town meeting, Selectman David Morse said he wasn't "enthusiastic" about figuring out those details until he knew what the new article said and why it was being presented again if it is virtually the same as the article that failed.

"I was sort of unaware that we were just going to present the same warrant article," he said, noting that the board had not yet discussed the issue.

Selectman Jon Pike asked what would happen if the town did not hold a special meeting. Beaudin said the wages of members of the police and fire union would remain at their current levels, which include the Evergreen Clause step increase.

Beaudin had suggested that the selectmen sign the warrant at its next scheduled meeting on May 17. In her proposed timeline, the deliberative session would be held on Tuesday, June 8, and the voting session on Tuesday, July 13. If the selectmen choose to have the meeting, and to follow that timeline, the warrant would have to be posted no later than May 24.

She said the only costs incurred by the town would be to pay a supervisor of the checklist and for legal postings.

Because of questions surrounding the warrant article, the selectmen agreed to hold a morning meeting at some point in the next week or two to discuss it.

Cormier also said the board needed to speak with individual department heads to see if there is a need for additional articles on the special town meeting warrant, should it move forward.

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