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North Adams Council Passes Final Measure of Term
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
02:32AM / Thursday, December 28, 2017
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City Council President Benjamin Lamb thanks the departing councilors and Mayor Richard Alcombright as they end their terms.

New councilors Marie T. Harpin and Becky Cohen, along with Mayor-elect Thomas Bernard, attended Monday's meeting.

Councilors Lisa Blackmer, Keith Bona and Wayne Wilkinson. This was Blackmer's last meeting; Bona will become president on Monday.

Outgoing Mayor Alcombright speaks with his successor Thomas Bernard.

Mayor Richard Alcombright addresses the council for the final time. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council at its last meeting of the term on Tuesday unanimously approved a change in sick-time buyback for non-union employees. 
The ordinance had been submitted by City Councilor Lisa Blackmer and passed to a second reading with the condition it be reviewed by the city solicitor. Some councilors were wary of supporting changes related to personnel benefits that did come through the administration.
Mayor Richard Alcombright, however, read a brief communique indicating his support for the amendment with language as approved by the city solicitor.
The ordinance changes the amount of money retired nonunion employees receive for unused sick time from $20 to $45 a day, in line with the public employee unions, and can only be accrued after 20 years of service.
Councilor Keith Bona said he was still reluctant to support the order because it did not originally come through the mayor's office. 
"It should really come from the administration and not the councilors," he said. "Also, being that it's right at the end of one administration moving into another. But based on comments at our last meeting, our current mayor and our mayor-elect [Thomas Bernard] seem to be supportive of it, so I will support it."
Councilor Robert Moulton Jr. expressed the same reservations but largely because the council had not been apprised of the actual budget cost. 
"I don't think it's a lot of money, probably actually a bargain, but I would have liked to see that," he said. 
City Council President Benjamin Lamb also wished to know how many employees might be affected.
Alcombright said he was able to offer some estimates but not specifics because it would depend on the amount of unused sick time for each person and when they decided to retire.
If we look out five years, we can foresee maybe nine folks," he said, which can include clerks, the fire director and City Hall workers. "We would anticipate maybe two going out in this current calendar year. Beyond that, they're going to trickle out over the next five years."
He thought maybe five might have the full number of days and the difference in benefit might be about $4,000 per person. Sick-time buybacks have not traditionally been budgeted but rather come from the salary line items at the end of the year. 
"I would probably encourage the mayor-elect, and we've actually spoken about this already, to put those figures out there for both union and non-union personnel," the mayor said. "Now, as our employees get older, we probably should have a little more science to it."
The councilors also took some time during this brief last meeting to bid goodbye to departing Councilors Blackmer, Moulton and Kate Hanley Merrigan. Merrigan did not stand for re-election and Blackmer and Moulton lost races for state representative and mayor, respectively. Also noted were former Councilors Nancy Bullett and Ronald Boucher, who both resigned when they moved from North Adams. Councilor Eric Buddington was not in attendance. 
Lamb also thanked Alcombright, whose end his tenure as mayor after eight years this week, for his years of service to the community. 
"It's been a privilege to work with you," he said. "You have left this community better than you found it. ... You've left an indelible mark on the city of North Adams and in Northern Berkshires."
He also thanked the departing councilors and pointed to Blackmer's 10 years on the council and her efforts on behalf of the city "knocking on doors in Boston for years now" as a board member and president of the Massachusetts Municipal Association.
Lamb was re-elected to the council in November but will end his term as president. 
"It has given me an even greater appreciaton for what it means to be a civil servant," he said of his two years leading the council. "I'm proud of what this council has done and blessed to have been able to work with all of you. Whether we've gotten along or not, it's been an honor."
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