Personnel matters at the fore of East Providence Budget Commission bi-weekly meeting

Attorney and lead negotiator for the Budget Commission Joseph Whalen (left) updates the status of contract talks at Thursday's meeting. Attorney and lead negotiator for the Budget Commission Joseph Whalen (left) updates the status of contract talks at Thursday's meeting.

EAST PROVIDENCE — Issues pertaining to personnel were are the heart of the East Providence Budget Commission’s first meeting of the New Year Thursday, Jan. 3, in Room 306 of City Hall.

Attorney and lead negotiator for the Budget Commission Joseph Whalen (left) updates the status of contract talks at Thursday's meeting.

Attorney and lead negotiator for the Budget Commission Joseph Whalen (left) updates the status of contract talks at Thursday’s meeting.

On-going contract negotiations between the various unions of city employees and Commission legal counsel Joseph Whalen were broached early Thursday.

Mr. Whalen alerted the Commission on the status of those talks, saying completed agreements have been reached between he and representatives of mid-management employees as well as those who are represented by Local 15509 of the United Steel Workers.

Those agreements include healthcare co-pays in the range of eight to 25 percent for employees earning salaries in the lower five-figures to those approaching, at or above six figures. There is not a cost of living increase this fiscal year, but a two-percent COLA is set for FY2014 beginning Nov. 1 of this year then reopeners for the remainder of the deals.

Some longevity payments were also frozen and “headway,” in the words of Mr. Whalen, was made in regards to deferred compensation payments in the  middle-management agreement.

Mr. Whalen concluded by saying costs to the city will be reduced while small steps have been put into place to rein in the “remarkably” large unfunded pension liability it still faces.

The entire Commission approved the recommendation of fellow member and City Manager Peter Graczykowski to promote Captain Oscar Elmasian as acting chief of the East Providence Fire Department.

A 25-year veteran of the department and most recently the city fire marshal, Captain Elmasian takes over the position on a six-month basis, replacing the recently retired Chief Joseph Klucznik.

Commission Chairman Diane Brennan’s proposal to temporarily extend the stay of Interim School Superintendent Dr. John DeGoes was approved.

Dr. DeGoes, who’s original 90-day employment period was supposed to conclude at the end of January, will stay on until a new superintendent is hired and to conduct “an orderly transition,” according to Mrs. Brennan.

The chairman and Interim Human Resources Director Heather Martino informed the rest of the Commission about the search to find a full-time super. Mrs. Martino said 16 people declared their interest in the post at the close of the application period on Dec. 28. Those interested are from both in state and out of state.

The five-person search committee — consisting of Mrs. Brennan, Mrs. Martino, School Committee Chairman Joel Monteiro, a representative of the Rhode Island Department of Education and an as of yet to be named current superintendent from a district in state — will begin interviewing candidates shortly.

“It’s a nice pool of people to draw from, so it will take some time to complete the process,” Mrs. Brennan said. “But it is our intention to have the person in place and ready to take the position on or before March 1.”

The Commission also approved Mr. Graczykowski’s plan to consolidate oversight of the Parks & Recreation Department in light of former director Alba Curti’s recent retirement.

Under his proposal, Parks will fall under the auspices of Public Works Director Steve Coutu while Rec programs will be run by Diane Sullivan, who directs operations at the Rec Center on Bullocks Point Avenue. Mr. Graczykowski said his plan is to be re-evaluated in six months time to determine its effectiveness.

The Commission, with some amendments to the original draft, gave Mr. Graczykowski and Dr. DeGoes the authority to continue their search for a full-time Human Resources director to replace Mrs. Martino, a state employee who has been on loan to the overseers for the last several months.

Mr. Graczykowski informed the Commission the process is well on its way. He and Dr. DeGoes have narrowed their search to four candidates and will likely bring each in for second interviews on Wednesday, Jan. 9.

The Commission authorized the pair to continue their efforts, but made sure to tell not to commit to a specific contract value or time frame. Mr. Gracykowski and Dr. DeGoes will report back to the Commission on the matter at its next meeting, Jan. 17.

Two part-time positions received Commission approval, that of a visiting nurse at the East Providence Senior Center and a library aide at the Weaver Branch location on Grove Avenue. The visiting nurse position is expected to bring in a small amount of revenue for services rendered. The library aide is to fill in for an employee currently on extended medical leave.

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