Barrington Town Council approves deals with police, fire and dispatch

Barrington Town Hall, Barrington, Rhode Island

Barrington Town Hall, Barrington, Rhode Island

New police officers, firefighters and dispatchers in Barrington will no longer be eligible for post employment health insurance.

That decision followed the unanimous approval of three collective bargaining agreements by the Town Council Monday night.

Town manager Peter DeAngelis said all three of the contracts have been ratified by each respective union and all contain a provision that new hires will not receive health insurance following their time of employment with the town. The provision has reportedly been in place for department of public works employees and non-union personnel for several years.

Each of the deals will run for three years beginning July 1, 2013 though the revised OPEB provision takes effect immediately for all workers not currently employed by the town. The deals also stipulate that police and firefighters will receive 2 percent raises each of the next three years while dispatchers will received 2.5 percent next year and 2 percent the year after. Dispatchers will not receive any raise in the contract’s final year.

While it is tough to calculate an exact level of savings from a provision that’s fiscal impact won’t be completely felt for decades, Mr. DeAngelis said the town is looking at millions of dollars in savings versus thousands of dollars. The agreements cap the town’s liability for post-employment health insurance to current employees.

Police and firefighters are reportedly eligible for health insurance for five years after retirement while dispatchers are eligible for one year after retirement.

Mr. DeAngelis said he wasn’t aware of any other local communities who have been able to adopt such a measure though he added such an agreement doesn’t happen overnight. He attributed the deals to good labor relations that have been developed over several years.

“I’m very pleased. When you work hard to establish good labor relations, you would hope employees keep in mind there’s a taxpayer out there paying the bill and taxpayers are going through the same tough economic times all of us are,” Mr. DeAngelis said.

“It’s a win-win. It’s very rewarding to both my administration and the taxpayers.”

As for the provision’s potential effect on hiring, Mr. DeAngelis said those applying to Barrington will know what to expect up front.

“We’re being realistic. You can go to other communities that offer unsustainable benefits and at some point in time, you will be on the receiving end of those changes,” Mr. DeAngelis said.

“The good news here is we’re telling employees coming in what to expect. I think that will go a long way. I think we’re being realistic.”

Other changes in the contracts include staffing language for police and fire. Mr. DeAngelis said the changes are reflective of staffing levels already in place though these numbers are now solidified with contract language.

Additionally, the dispatchers’ agreement contains language that weighs qualifications and experience versus time on the job for potential promotions.

Mr. DeAngelis said that none of the changes, however, should have an impact on the service provided to residents.

“We continue to offer good, quality, cost effective service, which has been the theme of my administration since day on this job,” Mr. DeAngelis said.

Meanwhile, Mr. DeAngelis said contract talks remain on-going with DPW employees. Should an agreement be ratified this month, the Town Council could adopt an agreement at its November meeting.

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