Take My Council, Please: Welcome to the Kwik-E-Meeting…
SPRINGFIELD—A short agenda sailed through the City Council’s Tuesday meeting here without any banality or vainglorious interrogatories. In addition to the usual financial housekeeping and grant acceptances, the meeting’s focused on a new library and new labor pacts set to last into 2020.
The early part of the year has not seen agendas laden with controversy or items easily inflated into grandstanding. While Springfield’s mayor-council relations were at a low ebb last year, that has not seeped into 2017 yet. Consequently, agendas as quiet as Tuesday’s moved along nicely.
At-large councilor Timothy Rooke was absent from Monday’s meeting.
The meeting opened with receipt of the revenue and expenditures report. City Comptroller Pat Burns told councilors the city was doing well with five months left in FY2017. The Council kept Mobilitie’s reports in limbo, but approved other utilities’ requests including some gas main replacements.
After accepting small grants, the Council approved preliminary schematics for a proposed East Forest Park branch library. Library Director Molly Fogarty briefly went over the designs and laid out the state of play for the competitive Massachusetts Library Commission grant. Councilors had already approved the application earlier this year.
Councilors queried Fogarty about the plans, but had no objections. The library director, in response to questions, noted that state library commissioners had to dole out was $120 million. However, that was over a few years. In this round, roughly six libraries are expected to receive funds.
The schematics were approved on a unanimous recorded vote.
The Council also allowed the Department of Public Works to seek out five-year leases for garbage trucks. DPW Director Christopher Cignoli said the longer lease period, not uncommon for such leases, would yield lower average annual costs for the city. The authorization passed without dissent.
The Council ratified a pair of labor contracts with a slew of DPW, Police, other clerical workers and housing inspectors represented by the United Food & Commercial Workers, Local 1459 and the United Public Service Employee Union. The UFCW contract covers about 180 employees while the UPSEU one covers 172.
HR/Labor Relations Director William Mahoney told the Council the pacts with the unions cover two time periods. The first was a bridge contract from July 1, 2016 to June 30 this year. The second ran for three years after that through June 30, 2020.
Employees will get 2% raises in each year of the contract. In addition, Mahoney said the contracts also covered tool allowances, scheduling, mandatory direct deposit, use of GPS and uniform and dress codes.
Ward 2 Councilor Michael Fenton, a vocal supporter of Springfield employee residency ordinance, praised Mahoney for ensuring residency was not waived in these contracts. The issue had been put in the prior contract. Fenton also approvingly noted that the human resources department was observing the reposting requirements the Council passed last year.
The Council’s final action was approving a $42,000 transfer to fund part of the labor contracts. All three measures received unanimous approval from the Council.
Quick, prompt meetings like these are rare. However, they may also be a consequence of current political moment.
A new front may not develop between the mayor and Council, but Mayor Domenic Sarno’s tilt toward the right makes it more likely. What will be worth watching is how Council races—only the second without the mayor also on the ballot— shape up. Competitive races could affect councilors behavior and what they champion.