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Concord fire officers get new union contract

The Concord Fire Officers Association has a new contract.

Approved by the city council last night, it provides 1.5 percent cost-of-living increases in fiscal years 2014 and 2015, and it increases the time officers spend training. The council approved the contract, 14-1, at the end of last night’s meeting with no debate. Councilor Allen Bennett voted against it.

The fire officers’ last contract ended in 2012, said Deputy Fire Chief Sean Toomey. City Manager Tom Aspell said negotiations have been ongoing since that time.

“I think it’s a very progressive contract because it doubles the amount of educational hours available at no cost,” said fire Chief Dan Andrus, noting that the contract reduces meeting hours in order to increase training hours.

Andrus said the officers “make the job run day to day, and I’m very proud of them.”

The three-year contract is retroactive to 2013, city officials said in a statement. The contract includes no cost-of-living increase for fiscal year 2013, which ended in June.

Mayor Jim Bouley said after the meeting that he thinks the contract is fair to both the union and the taxpayers.

“It recognizes the efforts and the important job that the officers do at the fire department, and it also recognizes and balances that with the ability of our residents to pay,” he said.

Bennett, who voted against the contract, said after the meeting that he feels taxpayers should not pay for city employee raises in the current economic conditions.

“I’ve got people in my ward that have worked for years and years without a raise,” Bennett said.

Art on Main Street

The Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce has offered to help the city plan for public art on Main Street.

Byron Champlin, chairman of the chamber’s Creative Concord committee, said that group is willing to assist in finding public art for the new streetscape when it is complete in 2015.

Creative Concord has researched other cities’ experiences, as well as potential funding sources for artwork, said Tim Sink, the chamber’s president. Sink said public input is important, and he suggested the chamber could either weigh in or take a leadership role.

“Clearly you are going to play a part,” Bouley said. “It’s important that the community play a role, but if we could work the administration to figure out how best that process works, then we could get back to you.”

School district budget

In documents that are more than two decades old, Councilor Liz Blanchard has an answer to her question of how the city council could take over the school district’s budget.

Blanchard asked at last month’s city council meeting what steps the city could take to have “final say on the Concord School District budget.” This month’s council packet included reports from 1981 and 1991 on the same topic, with no new information.

In 1991, a report from then-City Solicitor Paul Cavanaugh laid out the process: The council cannot have “bottom line” authority of the school budget without authorization of the state Legislature. To begin, the council could place a nonbinding question on a ballot in an election and present the results to the Legislature. If the Legislature voted to amend the school district charter, it would again require voter approval.

The question did go before voters in 1981, according to documents from that year. Residents voted to keep the budget in the hands of the school board.

It is not likely that anything will come of Blanchard’s inquiry; she is not running for re-election and other councilors expressed an unwillingness to explore the issue at last month’s meeting.

“It is quite a process,” Blanchard said last night. “So, seeing as I’m on my way out, I guess I’ll leave it to somebody else.”

Active shooter training

Concord will apply for a federal grant to conduct an active shooter training exercise for Concord Hospital.

The city council authorized Aspell and the police department to apply for grant funding from the state department of Safety, Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Concord Hospital requested the grant application and training, Aspell said. The police have already been reviewing active shooter procedures with hospital employees, police Chief John Duval wrote in a report.

“This activity is the next step in the training phase,” he wrote. “The intention of conducting a drill is to exercise the response and evaluate the deficiencies and shortcomings that present during the training scenario.”

Authorization to apply for a grant was approved as part of the council’s consent agenda last night, with no discussion.

In other action last night:

∎ The council voted to add $12,000 to Everett Arena’s operating budget. Deputy City Manager for Finance Brian LeBrun wrote in a report that the arena had unexpected expenses for natural gas in fiscal year 2013, as well as wages, because in-house labor was used for repairs. Aspell said the money came from revenue in the arena’s enterprise fund, not the general fund that relies on tax dollars.

∎ The police now have a camera to use while investigating what Duval described as a growing problem of graffiti in downtown Concord. The council accepted the $50 camera as a donation from Walmart.

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

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