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North Adams Council Committee Advises Salary Start Changes
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
12:47AM / Wednesday, July 21, 2021
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The General Government Committee is recommending language to amend an ordinance determining where new hires start on the salary step range. 
The committee — comprised of two members who also make up the Finance Committee that advised the same thing Monday — voted to forward the City Council the amended language to Section 2-30, "Compensation of employees generally."
The modification had been debated after the mayor requested approval for a youth services librarian to start several steps up from the starting salary because the library had candidates withdraw because of the low compensation. The City Council had approved starting salaries higher in the past for several posts but the Finance Committee felt a more permanent change should be made. 
"I know it's been done in the past that. The last few mayors that I've worked on under, three of them, so all of them, have made some kind of adjustment in this manner," said Lisa Blackmer, chair of both Finance and General Government. "I think this just codifies the language, makes it clearer and makes it not vague."
After paragraph b, which states "all new employees, subject to the provisions of this article, shall be paid at the minimum rate of compensation for the position held as set forth in the compensation plan," the amended version would add "or at a step commensurate with education, certifications, and experience, subject to approval of the mayor and the City Council."
Section 2-30 does lay out the process for employees to move up salary steps but these refer to workers who have had "not less than one year's service." Some specialized classifications have starting steps higher to avoid entry levels for experienced workers. The compensation plan has Steps 1-4 and then switches to four-year increments up to a maximum after 29 years. 
The Finance Committee is recommending back to the mayor's office and council that the city do a comprehensive study of its compensation and classification plan that has not been updated in about 40 years. 
"The credentials and the requirements of some of these jobs aren't what they used to be," said Blackmer. "So the pay is going to have to be commensurate with what you need to get these filled."
Member Wayne Wilkinson, also a member of the Finance Committee, agreed. "Look what happened when we were doing the city clerk," he said. "Two candidates that we wanted to hire pulled back out for financial reasons."
The two members (Jessica Sweeney was absent) also briefly discussed a communication from Councilor Keith Bona that would amend the council rules to allow the chair of committees to give conditional approval of minutes. If committees don't meet for months, this delays the approval of minutes for past meetings and, he wrote, makes it difficult for members to remember what was discussed. He also noted that some committees meet only to approve minutes because they have no other business. 
Wilkinson said he could understand the point, noting that the last meeting of the Mobile Home Rent Control Board was probably eight years ago and that "there's some lingering minutes from that out there someplace."
Blackmer said she was not sure of Bona's intent but thought it might be having the chair email minutes to members. The state law is 30 days or the third meeting, she said, while the city ordinance is two weeks. 
"I would really like to have him in attendance in order to have this discussion," she said, and Wilkinson agreed to postpone until Bona could speak to them. 
They also postponed an ordinance change on ice removal from sidewalks submitted by Councilor Benjamin Lamb some time ago pending firmer language from the Public Safety Committee. There was concern over a time limit for residents to clear sidewalks and the promotion of a community program for clearing walks. 
"It's just this one just keeps branching out to many different things so we would fall in a couple of different committees," said Councilor Peter Oleskiewicz, a member of the Public Safety Committee. "And I know that we haven't finished. It's something we have to revisit."
Also attending were Councilor Bryan Sapienza and council candidate Jennifer Barbeau, both of whom attended Monday's Finance Committee meeting as well. 
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