City Council’s panel tables ordinances

Staff Writer
Published: 8/14/2019 10:16:18 PM

GREENFIELD — The Appointments and Ordinance Committee tabled three ordinances — changes to the charter and two ordinances proposing stipend increases for city councilors.

A proposed amendment to the City Charter concerning citizen’s petitions was tabled in the City Council’s Appointments and Ordinances Committee meeting Wednesday after it was tabled at its July 10 meeting.

According to the agenda, the motion was to amend the city charter “by inserting ‘of any measure,’ prior to the words ‘a petition.’”

In a brief discussion, Councilor-at-Large Issac Mass motioned that the item be tabled indefinitely because if it were to go before the full council and get defeated, then it couldn’t be brought up again for nine months, according to the city charter.

He also added that he believed the charter language should be redrafted.

Councilor Vice President Penny Ricketts said the council has received recommendations from residents and brought up the idea of forming a committee of councilors and residents.

“I think we need to take time and not do that one quickly, as we can tell one or two words make a difference,” Ricketts said. “I hope we are putting together a committee to work on some charter pieces because as you know or may not know, we can’t send one thing to the state and fix the charter, we get a group and send them together.”

The councilors unanimously approved tabling the item indefinitely.

Councilors spoke for about an hour about an ordinance proposal by Councilor Tim Dolan to increase stipends for the City Council and School Committee.

His proposal is an amendment to an existing ordinance stating the City Council would receive a $4,000 stipend — double what the council currently receives — that would go into effect Jan. 1, 2023.

The committee decided to table the topic until September and invite Councilor Mark Berson, who also submitted possible changes to the council’s stipend as well as the mayor’s salary, to come to the next meeting to discuss his proposed ordinance.

“The council compensation is a diversity issue for me. It keeps people who would otherwise be willing to serve not have the opportunity,” Dolan said. “We’ve had a number of elections where only one candidate has run and I think that’s a problem for democracy.”

He said after surveying 21 communities in Massachusetts that have a council/mayor system with under 40,000 people, he found the average per resident of the legislative branch is $2.47 and Greenfield’s is $1.49. He said four of the cities do not provide stipends to its councilors.

Councilor Verne Sund said he believed that any changes should be made in increments.

Councilor Doug Mayo said he has concerns about increasing the stipend during a time when people’s taxes could increase.

“I am worried about how we’re going to pay for those raises in a climate where it looks like we’re going into a downturn and we have an aging population that is barely able to afford their homes,” Mayo said.

Dolan said he believed the downturn was the best time to increase the pay to get people to be willing to be a councilor.

Mass proposed potentially changing the size of the council to seven councilors and increasing the stipend at the same time. He also asked if the increase could potentially effect heath insurance costs for the town.

“If I remember properly, $2,000 was the trigger point. Anything over $2,000, you had to provide health insurance and health insurance cost is astronomical,” Mass said. “So we need to get the answer to that before we do it. I believe that was one of the primary reasons we never went higher than $2,000, but that could have changed with the Municipal Modernization Act.”

Dolan said he would do research regarding whether the increase would require the city to offer health insurance and provide the committee an update in September.

Reach Melina Bourdeau at mbourdeau@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 263.




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