GROTON — In three- and two-year contracts with municipal unions approved by town officials, some employees will be in line for salary increases over the next three years.
Approval for new contractual agreements with the International Association of Firefighters and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, was given by selectmen Monday when members voted for the increases.
According to Town Manager Mark Haddad, the new firefighters’ agreement calls for a three-year contract retroactive to July 1, 2012, when the last contract expired.
Haddad said the town had been negotiating with the union all the time, agreeing to pay its members a retroactive 3 percent raise for July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013.
For the remaining two years of the contract, firefighters will receive annual raises of 2 percent.
Haddad said the agreement covered six firefighters, with the total financial impact to the town for the three-year contract at $58,000.
No other significant change to the conditions of the prior contract were made.
In the second agreement covering department heads and other Town Hall employees, Haddad said that the new contract would cover two years with a 2 percent raise only in the second year.
Haddad told selectmen the employees concerned had agreed not to take any raise in 2011 when the town, like many others, had been under economic stress.
Employees agreed not to take a raise in the first year of their two-year contract but instead settled for placing their wages where they would have been if they had not agreed to go without in 2011.
“It was a very good negotiation,” said Haddad of talks between himself and the employees which took all of “15 minutes.”
“They understood the financial condition of the town,” Haddad said.
The new department-heads contract will be retroactive to July 1, 2013, cover 14 employees, and cost the town $30,000.
Also Monday night, selectmen revisited the warrant for the upcoming fall Town Meeting to decide whether to recommend proposed articles to voters.
Among the list of 23 articles to be considered is a $236,000 adjustment to the town’s operating budget for fiscal 2014 which was approved last spring.
For that, a special appropriation will seek to cover increases in some employees’ working hours with a subsequent rise in wages and related benefits.
Among the changes planned are increases in hours for one of two part-time assistants in the Town Clerk’s Office as well as for a young-adult librarian, upgrading a custodial position from part time to full time, and a possible $3,000 raise for the new library director.
The requests dealing with the Town Clerk’s assistant and assistant librarian have raised concerns by a number of town officials including selectmen and Finance Committee members, but they have also been defended by Haddad, who called them fair.
In the case of the town clerk’s assistant position, the change requested would increase the hours of one of two part-time employees in the Town Clerk’s Office from 19 to 20 at a potential cost to the town of $16,000 a year if all benefits were claimed.
According to Haddad, the situation was not fair that one part-timer should have 20 hours and all the benefits that go with them and the other stuck at 19 hours, just below the threshold when benefits take effect.
But some town officials felt that if an exception were made for the Town Clerk assistant position, the same might be demanded for other part-time positions.
The two assistant positions were voted on separately from the balance of items in the article, with a majority selectmen voting 3-2 for the increase in hours for the two positions and unanimously for the remainder.
Board members also voted 4-1 to recommend a trio of articles dealing with a possible extension of water main services into the Lost Lake neighborhood for better fire protection.
Selectman Jack Petropoulos voted against the measures.
Selectmen also voted unanimously to recommend a concept plan for the renovation of Squannacook Hall in West Groton. Developers there hope to eventually purchase the historic building from the town and transform it into rental apartments.