NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

January 29, 2013

Council delays transfer of funds for salaries

BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
STAFF WRITER

---- — NEWBURYPORT — In a rare instance when the city took in more money than it spent at a meeting of municipal leaders, the City Council last night voted to accept a donation of $2,000 and to defer action on earmarking $132,393 for salary adjustments to several groups of city workers.

Council members appeared to welcome $2,000 from the Attenborough Family Trust to go to the animal control department.

Councilor Ed Cameron noted that the city has a fund that can be used to improve the health and welfare of local pets and animals, and the $2,000 gift will augment the $12,000 that exists in the fund.

“We accept the money with thanks,” said council President Tom O’Brien. He indicated that random infusions of cash don’t occur often.

The genesis of the trust fund could not be ascertained at press time.

The council was not so swift in dealing with a financial transfer requested by Mayor Donna Holaday.

City officials have come to agreement with several employee unions, and the $132,393 would have transferred funds from a free-cash account “to cover the cost of living allowances, step increases, overtime impacts and grade adjustments that have resulted from the agreed-upon terms of negotiation.”

Cameron, who heads the budget and finance committee, stated that panel members would like more time to study the document.

The transfer is considered a routine administrative procedure.

Several councilors questioned why the harbormaster and the director of the veterans office were getting raises of close to $5,000 each.

Peter Lombardi, director of policy and administration for the city, said that the increases were merited based on comparable salaries of such officers in other similar communities.

Cameron said the transfer request will come up again at the next council meeting, scheduled for early February.

On a separate matter, Councilor Dick Sullivan Jr. urged residents to “take a deep breath and relax” regarding discussions of the riverfront.

Speaking during a period known as the “Good of the Order,” Sullivan noted that the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority is fashioning a proposal to develop two commercial buildings in order to fund more park space on acreage it owns adjacent to the Merrimack River, but he said that no plans have been approved.

“There is a lot of misinformation out there sent on blue fliers,” Sullivan said. He appeared to be referring to communication sent by opponents of development.

Sullivan said the NRA is just working on an outline for possible action, and that nothing has been finalized.

The NRA is scheduled to meeting tomorrow night at 7 at the library, and authority members are expected to present information that they consider factual.