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New Union Contracts Save Millions

The Barrington Town Council ratifies new 3-year contracts for police officers, firefighters and dispatchers without an OPEB -- medical insurance after retirement.

The Barrington Town Council ratified three union contracts on Monday evening, Oct. 1, that will save taxpayers millions of dollars down the road. The votes were all unanimous, 5-0.

The millions of dollars in future savings will come in a “give back” by the police and fire departments of “other post-employee benefits” (OPEB) -- medical insurance after retirement, in Barrington’s case -- for new officers, firefighters and dispatchers.

“That liability was in the same breath as pension reform,” said Town Manager Peter DeAngelis Jr., who negotiated the new contracts. “We stopped the liability for all new employees.”

OPEBs will continue to place unsustainable fiscal demand on communities, DeAngelis said.

“It’s a good deal for the taxpayers,” he said. “The OPEB give back is a big one.”

“We are now ahead of the game,” DeAngelis said. “I don’t think any other town in the state doesn’t have an OPEB.”

DeAngelis said he got the opportunity to bring up the OPEB because of four vacancies in the fire department. Those positions would probably have been filled if he had waited to negotiate the contracts later.

The new contracts are all for three years. They will go into effect next July 1.

The unions now will have “minimum staffing levels” written into the new contracts, DeAngelis said, although both the police chief and fire chief are already maintaining those levels.

The minimum staffing level in the fire department during the day is 4; it will rise to 5, although Fire Chief Gerald Bessett has been maintaining a minimum of 5 already, said DeAngelis.

The minimum staffing level in the police department is 3 during the day and 4 at night and on weekends, DeAngelis said. Police Chief John LaCross has been operating with those levels since 2009.

Wage increases for the police and fire unions will be 2 percent each year. And the police will receive new language relating to detail pay, DeAngelis said.

The town’s six dispatchers, who handle police and fire calls, will get 2.5 percent and 2 percent raises in the first two years and no increase in the third year.

OPEB is already out of the contract for the public works union, DeAngelis said.

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