McClure proposed an amendment to the agreements stipulating that they be funded by the existing budget, but the amendment was defeated 6-3, with the majority arguing that there was no room for any cuts in the existing budget to make room for the agreements.
After that, the council discussed the merits of the agreements and ultimately voted in favor of all four contracts, preferring the deal on the table to the alternative possibility of sending the deal back for renegotiation and getting back a worse deal in the end.
“I’m pleased that they ultimately realized the benefit that by negotiating these contracts in conjunction with negotiating savings in health insurance, the net result is a benefit to the taxpayers,” Kezer said after the vote. “That’s how Amesbury has been able to flatten out our costs of doing business, by negotiating these types of arrangements where the net result is ultimately a savings.”
“We’re pleased they got resolved,” said police Chief Mark Gagnon. “I think the union stepped up in good faith and made a big decision to do the health insurance change before they even knew what they were getting for a contract, they had a lot of trust in the administration of the town and they made that decision upfront knowing they could trust the mayor’s decision to negotiate a fair deal, and I think they got a fair deal.”
Prior to the discussion on the union contracts, the council resolved the issues surrounding the prospective Affordable Housing Trust, which was discussed at length at last month’s meeting. Previously, supporters had argued that it could allow low-income Amesbury residents a chance to enter the housing market, while objectors argued that it could impose a greater tax burden on residents.
In order to alleviate the concerns of the opposed councilors, Councilor Bob Lavoie proposed two amendments to the original bill. One was a stipulation that affordable housing trustees could not be paid, which was a concern raised by Councilor Jim Kelcourse, and the other was a 10-year sunset clause that would allow the City Council the ability to either renew or dissolve the trust in 10 years, depending on how it works out.