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Public safety contract fails for the second time

August 04, 2010
BELMONT — The union contract for Belmont's public safety employees failed a second time during a special voting session last week.

The warrant article presented in March asked voters to approve a contract agreement with public safety employees. It failed, though a nearly identical article for public works employees passed. Selectmen have said there was some confusion between the two articles, and that they heard after the vote that people thought they had to choose one or the other. Because of the confusion, the selectmen agreed to hold the special meeting to vote on a similar article. The article looked to raise $7,710.

The deliberative session was held in June with no questions or comments from the public, and the voting session was held last Tuesday.

Out of 123 votes, there were 58 yes votes and 65 no votes. The town has approximately 4,200 registered voters.

"We really tried to get the word out," Town Clerk/Tax Collector Cynthia DeRoy said, though attempts to advertise didn't bring in as many voters as hoped.

Union President and firefighter Thomas Murphy said he thought the low turnout probably influenced the vote's outcome.

"We were disappointed in the vote," Murphy said. "The union and the town worked hard to come up with what we thought was a good contract."

Murphy said the vote ultimately costs the taxpayers more money, because the union had made concessions on the insurance portion of the contract. The raises in wages more or less counteracted the benefits package, as employees would have started paying into their insurance plans.

"(It) could be the case that they (voters) weren't really aware of that," Murphy said.

Murphy said the union will return to the negotiation table to prepare a new contract agreement for the March warrant article, but it will be "basically the same." The town had asked the union to revert to the town's non-union pay scale, which the union has agreed to, he said.

Despite the no vote, Murphy said the town's police and fire union employees don't have any ill will towards the town.

"We do understand the economy," he said. "We're here to protect and serve the town of Belmont."

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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