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Police raises, citizens’ petition on tap in Northfield

Special Town Meeting set for Monday at 7

NORTHFIELD — Police raises and plans to study changing town government could draw quite a crowd to the special town meeting at 7 p.m. Monday in Pioneer Valley Regional School.

One article asks voters to approve about $5,500 to fund the current year’s portion of a new three-year police union contract. Another, brought by citizens’ petition, would establish a committee to study town government.

A recently negotiated police union contract, combined with a side agreement with acting Sgt. Scott Minckler, is the subject of an article seeking $5,527 for the current fiscal year, according to Town Administrator Tom Hutcheson. The three-year contract is the first between the town and the police union, and includes 2 percent cost of living increases for department employees, excluding the chief. Selectboard Chairwoman Kathy Wright said the raises are commensurate with what other town employees receive. The contract also gives department employees the same benefits afforded to other town employees.

Minckler’s side agreement gives him a retroactive raise, bringing him up two steps in the town’s pay schedule for the first six months of the fiscal year, when he served as full-time patrolman. It rectifies a cut in the normal patrolman’s rate that Minckler took when he first took the job.

Due to the departure of former Chief Leonard Crossman Jr. in January, the pay increases won’t affect the budget as much as they could. This is because acting Chief Robert Leighton is making less than Crossman, and Minckler makes less than Leighton did as acting sergeant.

Hutcheson said the actual motion made at the meeting will ask for between $5,000 and the full $5,527.

If the citizens’ petition-fueled article passes, the town will create a committee that would have 90 days to study forms of town government and issue a report to the town. Along the way, an update would be given at the annual town meeting.

The proposal is the work of an unofficial group of residents that have started to look into different forms of town government, and how they may work in Northfield.

The official committee would be made up of five or more appointees, with one nomination by the Selectboard, and one by the chairman of the unofficial working group. Appointments would be made by the town moderator.

Suggested areas of focus include the optimum size of the Selectboard, and exploring the benefits of a strong town manager position or other professional administrative support.

The official committee would build on the work already done by the working group.

Other business

If another article is approved, the historic First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church, built in 1862, will receive $16,000 of current year Community Preservation Act funds to fix a collapsing floor in its Webster Room. The funds are already allocated for CPA projects; no additional town money is needed for the repair.

One article asks to amend a May 2012 annual town meeting motion that approved work on the Town Hall property. After it was discovered that replacing a metal storage shed would be cheaper than repairing it, the town found that replacement was not allowed under the motion. To fix that, the amendment would make the motion read “repair or replace.” Further amendment would also allow any leftover money to be used for other work to Town Hall.

Another article asks for an additional $9,000 for labor, fuel and equipment to keep up the town’s cemeteries.

An article presented by the Recreation Committee would ask the meeting to approve a process for picking a town flag. The committee has received several submissions for a town flag, and narrowed them to three choices. The special town meeting would not vote on a flag design, but establish the process by which a flag would be chosen by the annual town meeting.

David Rainville can be reached at:
drainville@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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