PORTSMOUTH TOWN COUNCIL NOTES

Portsmouth Town Council ratifies 2 employee contracts

Council also OKs using ARPA funds for cesspool replacement loan program

By Jim McGaw
Posted 8/15/22

PORTSMOUTH — The Town Council, at its Aug. 9 meeting, unanimously ratified separate five-year contracts between the town and two local workers’ unions.

One was for the firefighter …

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PORTSMOUTH TOWN COUNCIL NOTES

Portsmouth Town Council ratifies 2 employee contracts

Council also OKs using ARPA funds for cesspool replacement loan program

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — The Town Council, at its Aug. 9 meeting, unanimously ratified separate five-year contracts between the town and two local workers’ unions.

One was for the firefighter fourth class/dispatchers, Local 1949; the other for the Portsmouth Municipal Employees Association (PMEA). Both contracts are effective from July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2027, according to Town Administrator Richard Rainer, Jr. 

The dispatchers’ contract, which previously covered a three-year period, calls for 2-percent pay raises in each of the five years. (The contract accounts for a step increase for a new hire which increases the total salary line by 4 percent in the second year.) The total salary line would increase from about $200,840 in the first year to $225,236 in the fifth and final year.

Any firefighter/dispatcher is entitled to five sick days per year, and the town will place 20 sick leave shifts into a sick leave “bank.” A civilian dispatcher who exhausts their allotted sick leave can utilize shifts from the sick leave bank with the approval of the fire chief, he said.

The PMEA contract covers numerous employees including administrative clerks and administrative assistants, other clerks, the building official, animal control officer, registrar of voters, wastewater manager, and the Prudence Island public safety officer. 

The new contract calls for salary increases of 2 percent in the first year, 2.5 percent in the second and third years, and 2 percent in the fourth and fifth years. The union has the right to a wage reopener at the beginning of the fourth and fifth years of the contract.

According to Human Resources Director Lisa Puglia, the contract’s total impact to taxpayers over the five years is about $123,440. The town saved about $119,000 in medical co-pays under the new agreement, she said.

Cesspool, septic loans

In other business on Aug. 9, the council unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding between the town and Church Community Housing Corp. (CCHC) that would use $500,000 to assist residents in replacing their failed cesspools and septic systems, and onsite wastewater treatment systems.

The money for the program will come from previously approved American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

Rainer said the program’s intent is to assist residents who are unable to afford the loan payments associated with the town’s existing Community Septic System Load Program, which is administered through Rhode Island Housing.

“This would help the people who fall through the cracks,” he said, adding that the program would allow eligible residents to take out the minimal loan possible — or even no loan — to help them replace failed systems. CCHC would administer the program.

“We would exercise this program until the money runs out,” Rainer said.

The ARPA funds must be spent by 2026. If they’re not, administration will come back before the council for guidance, Rainer said.

Fire station roof

A request by Public Works Director Brian Woodhead to award a $235,000 contract for the replacement of the fire station’s roof to Silktown Roofing Inc. was approved unanimously.

Silktown, of Douglas, Mass., was the only company that bid on the advertised job by the July 28 deadline, Woodhead said. The town had budgeted $260,000 for the work in the 2022 Public Works capital improvement plan, he added.

Appointments/resignations

The council voted unanimously to appoint John Spadaro to fill a vacancy on the Prudence Island Planning Commission. 

The council also re-appointed Emil Cipolla to the Economic Development Committee and John Vickers to the Wastewater Appeals Board.

The council accepted with regret the resignation of Ralph McClusky from the Pension Investment Committee.

Peddler licenses approved

Sitting as the Board of License Commissioners, the council unanimously approved peddler licenses for two new mobile food establishments:

• Coastal Cones, doing business as Ben & Jerry’s, Newport

• BAKD Foods LLC, doing business as The Bite, Warren

Future meetings

The council’s next three regular Monday meetings are scheduled for 7 p.m. on Aug. 22, Sept. 12, and Sept. 26.

In addition, the council will travel to Prudence Island on Saturday, Sept. 10, for its annual meeting with islanders on issues that are particularly pertinent to them. The meeting will be at 10 a.m. at Union Church.

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