AUGUSTA — New three-year contracts with six of the city’s eight union employee bargaining units are up for City Council approval Thursday.
The new deals would provide those employees with raises of 1.5 percent this year, 2 percent next year and 2.5 percent in 2016, according to Ralph St. Pierre, finance director and assistant city manager.
The contracts would continue insurance benefits changes agreed to by the unions a year ago in previous contract negotiations, which gave the employees 2 percent raises but saved the city money overall by reducing insurance premium costs, savings expected to continue through the term of the new contracts.
Employees represented by the six bargaining units include police supervisors, patrol officers, general government workers, public safety dispatchers, Augusta Civic Center maintenance workers and public works workers.
The two remaining units without a new contract represent firefighters, ambulance crews and Fire Department battalion chiefs. St. Pierre said negotiations are underway with those two units as well.
St. Pierre and William Bridgeo, city manager, said members of the bargaining units — five of which are represented by Teamsters Local 340, and the sixth by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees — already have ratified the proposed contracts.
The unions, St. Pierre said, initially sought bigger wage increases but agreed to modest increases because they understood the city’s financial position. Both sides wanted a longer deal than the one-year deals that expire in July.
“They wanted three-year deals rather than having to negotiate every year,” St. Pierre said. “And the city wanted the same thing. The unions realized the budgetary constraints the city is under, with the reduction in state revenue sharing.”
Ed Marzano, business agent for Teamsters Local 340, confirmed unit members had voted to approve the deals.
“No concessions and a three-year deal, that’s a good thing,” Marzano said Tuesday. “A three-year deal is definitely what they were looking for. It’s security going forward.”
The city has 220 full-time employees and 20 permanent part-time employees They include 89 in the bargaining units represented by the Teamsters and 41 represented by AFSCME, covered by the contracts up for council approval Thursday.
The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in council chambers at Augusta City Center.
Councilors also are scheduled to consider approving a proposal expected to result in the city ending up with the 164-acre Howard Hill property, which forms a wooded backdrop behind the State House.
The city would serve as a co-applicant with the Kennebec Land Trust to seek grant funds to acquire the parcel from current owner Sumner Lipman, an Augusta attorney, in 2015.
And the council vote Thursday could authorize Bridgeo to negotiate a transfer agreement with the land trust to acquire the Howard Hill property, with the land trust holding a conservation easement preventing the site from being developed. Also, the land trust would provide the city with a $100,000 endowment to help maintain the property. The acquisition would be contingent on the city not having to use any local property tax dollars to help fund it.
Bridgeo said Thursday’s vote would help move the site’s acquisition forward, but councilors still would have to take a final vote before the city would be committed to taking over the land.
The proposed council order states, in part, Howard Hill is the iconic scenic backdrop to the State Capitol Building and “is an important part of the history of the city of Augusta. … Conservation of the 164-acre Howard Hill property would preserve this scenic landscape and historical legacy while protecting important wildlife habitat and public recreation opportunities.”
Councilors are also scheduled to:
â€¢ consider changes to the boundary lines between voting wards to comply with state law requiring wards to be of similar populations;
â€¢ consider rezoning proposals for the east side of the Kennebec River near the former MaineGeneral hospital site on East Chestnut Street the and former Statler Tissue mill site; and
â€¢ present the Mayor’s Recognition for Excellence Award to Peter Dionne, for his time volunteering in local schools.
Keith Edwards — 621-5647 firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @kedwardskj