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Council tells union it must wait longer for contract

July 3, 2014 | By G. Michael Dobbs

CHICOPEE – The city department heads, who were hoping to finally have a contract with a raise, will have to wait longer. The City Council followed the suggestion of Mayor Richard Kos to throw out the contract that was negotiated during the Bissonnette administration and start the process all over.

Numerous department heads were in attendance at the July 1 meeting. Stephen Buoniconti, attorney for Chicopee Professional Municipal Employees Association, addressed the council during the public speak-out portion of the meeting.

Buoniconti said the contract was before the council for approval for a third time. He noted it had been signed on Aug. 29, 2013 and the members of the union have not received any raises since 2006. He charged the union was “being treated worse than anyone other union in the city.”

He added, “Tabling the matter isn’t going to end this issue.”

Councilor William Zaskey said the former administration had negotiated with department heads and, while he believes the members deserve a raise, the practice of the council is any legislation that is still in committee at the end of the calendar year dies.

He added the funding for the raises was not in the Kos budget approved by the council this week.

Zaskey said, “We understand that department heads need a raise. In good faith this administration should renegotiate contract and come back to us with the appropriation.”

Councilor Adam Lamontagne expressed delaying a vote could create “hostile employees.”

Councilor John Vieau maintained the council never had the opportunity to address the contract issue until late last year.

After the near unanimous vote – Lamontagne was the only dissenter – Buoniconti expressed disagreement with Vieau’s comments about timing. He explained the council had the contract in September 2013 and tabled it. At the union’s request, former Mayor Michael Bissonnette brought the contract again before the council, which tabled it again.

Buoniconti said that although he has had “discussions” with Kos, there have been no negotiations.

The City Council approved a motion to forward to the Department of Public Works a list of streets to be repaved beginning this summer. The streets included Broadway as well as Crestwood, Court, James, Grove and Main streets. The action was required to be taken at this time to ensure the use of Chapter 90 funds to the city.

The total cost of these streets is $595,000 and it was noted there is another $600,000 for resurfacing work. The councilors discussed meeting in the fall to discuss which other streets should be paved with the remaining funds.

Councilor Gary Labrie noted there are about 350 streets in the city that are not “accepted” legally as a city street even though the city maintains the thoroughfare. The city is currently undertaking the legal effort to have these streets accepted as the more streets the city has the greater amount of Chapter 90 money it would receive.

Councilor James Tillotson suggested that rather than pursue the current legal procedure to have the streets accepted that Home Rule legislation be written and brought to the Legislature so all of the streets could be accepted at once.

The council also denied a special permit for a kennel license for Jennie Seal at 81 Mount Royal St. Seal has six dogs and the city ordinances stipulate that any number over three at a residence requires a kennel license.

Tillotson reported that at the meeting of the council’s Zoning Committee there were 15 to 17 neighbors “violently opposed” to Seal receiving the license. Noise was cited as the principal complaint.

Vieau said the committee’s recommendation “wasn’t an easy decision to make.” If the council as a whole had approved the license, the Zoning Committee had suggested restrictions on it including reducing the number of dogs to three within three months and the erection of a stockade fence.

Councilor Fred Krampits offered a motion to recommend to the Building Department the owner is given 30 days to dispose of three of the dogs. He believed it would be enough time for the owner and would ensure the neighbors could enjoy their backyards this summer without the sound of barking.

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