Ordinance Committee 11-24-20
November 24, 2020
Councilor Lisi, Chair of the committee, called meeting to order at 6:33pm
Other members in attendance: Vice Chair Juan Anderson-Burgos, Linda Vacon, Terry Murphy.
Also joined by Councilors David Bartley and Joe McGiverin.
Chair Lisi read Item 1: Special Permit Application, Registered Marijuana Retail Establishment for Abbey Property Management at 40 Lyman St. Public hearing process has already been closed.
Motion made by Councilor Murphy to take up item number 1, seconded by Council Vacon. All vote in favor.
Chair Lisi: Last submission was October 15th, planning department has given responses as late as 11/17. Rest of committee confirmed they have seen response letter. Many things still missing from submission. Email sent to Mr. Neffinger, reply included: “Jeff [Burkott] never responded to an email nor to any previous emails or phone calls since August. All of his comments cannot be answered at this moment because they are interrelated to the normal construction process. They will be answered when we apply to the permits for construction.” City Council is permitting authority. We need complete documents.
Councilor Hernandez arrived at 6:36pm
Councilor Vacon: wanted to note for record that letter from Jeff is dated November 19th. It is common practice for committee to get core documents, then refer to letters with dates certain that the project needs to comply.
Chair Lisi: documents are incomplete making it hard to review and approve.
Greg Neffinger, representation for Abbey Property Management: haven’t heard from Jeff since August. At that time, explained that anything not submitted at this time will have to be resent to City Council for approval. Because it is an existing building, cannot accurately submit because there are structural problems and that significant modifications to building that may require site plan. Client will not purchase unless they can acquire special permit. If acquired, combining buildings will happen. Things will happen are things that would happen during normal permitting process. Sent responses to Jeff on November 1st. Jeff sent responses to Council but not back to him. Happy to answer any other questions.
Chair Lisi: clarification of process. Isn’t Jeff’s role to go back and forth with applicants. Planning does review and forwards to Council. We condition permit based on responses. We have to ensure all relevant departments are looking at the same documents.
Neffinger: concern is that I have not heard from Jeff to discuss responses.
Chair Lisi: in background, we lost staff member and Jeff has been managing workload himself. City Council is not looking for positive or negative response from Planning. We ask for review to determine how complete the submission is in terms of what is required under the ordinance. As the permitting body, difficult to hear that some questions will not be answered until construction begins. Small issues can be conditioned, but there are big gaps.
Councilor Leahy arrived at 6:47pm
Neffinger: All things that are missing are small. If approved and have concerns, we can address those. Plans we submitted has everything necessary to go forward. Jeff from Planning said changes to be made are formality and concerns can be conditioned.
Chair Lisi: Any change to plan would require an amendment and have to go through another approval. Any other questions from councilors?
Councilor Murphy: Asked for clarification: without special permit, applicant cannot go into building to see what needs to be done?
Councilor Murphy: one concern when application was received, it did indicate on site usage. In agreement, this needed to be taken out.
Neffinger: There is no intention of allowing that. It was an oversight in application.
Councilor Vacon: motion to recommend approval, with amendment: condition number 7 so that it states applicant be in compliance with letter from Office of Planning and Development, dated 11/19/20 and recommendations from city engineer. Current to most recent communication. Seconded by Councilor Murphy.
Amendment: Changing to add a 7th condition, to be in compliance with Planning letter 11/19/20 and engineers letter.
Any change to plan of what has been submitted, needs to come before city council, and go through special permit review and amendment.
Original 6 conditions:
- Owner of the building always pay commercial property tax rate to the extend allowed by federal, state, and local laws for the duration of the special permit.
- That the business retain a minimum of 30% Holyoke residents for non-security jobs.
- That hiring preference be given to security personnel that are retired Holyoke police or a retired member of another police department that now lives in the city of Holyoke.
- That there shall be no marijuana consumption on site.
- There shall be no deliveries of retail or medical marijuana from the site to individual homes, residences, or people.
- That the hours of operation reflect the ordinance.
- The applicant meet all the requirements of the 11/19 letter from the Planning Department and the Engineer’s letter.
All vote in favor. 5-0
Char Lisi: Recommendation will go to the full council meeting December 1st.
Neffinger: Appreciate time. Understand with Covid, difficulties with staffing.
Councilor Anderson-Burgos: make a motion to take up items 8-13 out of order. They are handicap placards throughout the city.
Councilor Murphy: I only have 6 items.
Chair Lisi: items were reviewed and added last Thursday or Friday, posted to city’s website.
Councilor Murphy: future reference, expect that what is in email is the final agenda.
Chair Lisi: were items approved by Commission on Disabilities. Admin will circulate updated agenda.
Councilor Leahy: point of information. Can agenda be sent to everyone?
Chair Lisi: Admin will send to all councilors.
Chair Lisi: motion was made by Councilor Murphy and seconded by Council Vacon to open public hearing on Floodplain ordinances.
All vote in favor.
Chair Lisi: Massachusetts is being asked by FEMA to make changes to floodplain ordinances. Building Commission Cote is here.
Motion made by Councilor Murphy to suspend the rules to allow Mr. Cote to speak. All vote in favor.
Cote: this is keeping in compliance locally, as required by state through state flood hazard manager. NFIP coordinator works with FEMA to determine what we don’t already have in state laws, and what has to change in local ordinances. We have to adopt amendments to be in compliance, word for word.
Councilor Vacon: to Mr. Cote, did we hear from people who were noticed that they are in the flood plain?
Chair Lisi: first time, Conservation Commission proposed new flood plain map. That is why households were noticed. Not changing map with this, just changing definitions and text. Is there a way to consolidate changes?
Cote: Items have been pre-identified, and we are in compliance with 90%. We are being asked to clarify things and put them in local ordinance. It is a lot of fine tuning what is already there.
Chair Lisi: to Crystal, do we have to adopt bylaws in whole or specific text changes that we need to adopt?
Barnes: if adopted as a whole, it will make sense in legal form.
Chair Lisi: other questions? Best way to proceed is to determine what we’re looking at first.
Barnes: won’t have ready for full council on 1st. If tabled, it can be worked on.
Chair Lisi: this is a public hearing, we should see if any members of public who want to speak on it.
Motion made by Councilor Murphy to open public comment, seconded by Councilor Hernandez. All vote in favor.
Chair Lisi: are there any members of public who want to speak? Appears to be none. We need a motion to table, and will also need recommendation from Planning Board before final vote.
Motion to table made by Councilor Hernandez, seconded by Councilor Murphy.
Councilor Vacon: do we need to continue public hearing to a date certain?
Chair Lisi: 8th is a full meeting. Can be taken up on the 22nd. Motion to continue public hearing to the 22nd of December at 6:30pm, seconded by Councilor Anderson-Burgos.
All vote in favor.
Chair Lisi: to Crystal Barnes, is that enough time to prepare legal language?
Barnes: confirmed it would be.
Chair Lisi: asked if package of handicap sign orders has been emailed.
Councilor Anderson-Burgos: confirmed it had been.
Chair Lisi: are there comments?
Admin: confirmed they were all approved by Commission on Disabilities.
Chair Lisi: to admin, asked to put text of orders into Zoom chat. Motion to take up 8-13 as a package out of order.
All vote in favor.
Chair Lisi: read items 8-13. Admin confirmed that Commission on Disabilities has approved all items.
Councilor Murphy: motion to adopt the recommendations and pass the orders. Seconded by Councilor Vacon.
All vote in favor.
Councilor Anderson-Burgos: motion to take up item 3, seconded by Councilor Vacon. All vote in favor.
Chair Lisi: asked about taking up 3, 4, and 5 as a package.
Motion made by Councilor Anderson-Burgos to take up as a package.
Councilor Vacon: add 7 to package.
Chair Lisi: motion is to take up 3, 4, 5, and 7 as a package.
All vote in favor.
Chair Lisi: unsure what item 7 is.
Councilor Vacon: read 7.
Chair Lisi: that is the updated salary schedule.
Councilor Vacon: there were attached items and language changes. We need all documents for committee.
Chair Lisi: documents were circulated at last meeting.
Councilor Vacon: we need the items in the appendix that are referenced in the order.
Hector Carrasquillo (Director of Personnel): the available spreadsheet does not include elected officials, or board members. Looking to pull data form other communities to measure existing salaries. Unsure how city came up with current salaries.
Councilor Vacon: we have orders filed that refer to specific documents. We should have all pertinent documents that these orders reference.
Chair Lisi: Salary Study order 2016 is referenced in item number 3. Spreadsheet form independent contractor was circulated in advance of last meeting.
Councilor Vacon: Item 7 was not agenda previously.
Chair Lisi: today we will focus on schedule A: non-union employees. Asked admin to download documents from chat and send to councilors. Referred to salary study ordinance, from 2016. Referred to distinctions of Schedules A, B, and C.
Carrasquillo: employees highlighted in spreadsheet refer to salaries that employees are making today. Independent contractor in 2014-15 looked at comparable cities and towns and neighboring cities and towns. They gauged recommendations as 65th percentile of other cities and town studied.
Councilor Murphy: clarification: 65% of difference or 65% of what neighboring towns pay?
Chair Lisi: understood it to be 65% of what they make in another city.
Councilor Murphy: took it to mean that salary study takes it 65% of the way in the difference. Are cities used listed in study?
Carrasquillo: believe that council has had this document circulated.
Councilor Murphy: can see recommendations, but not what the comparisons are.
Chair Lisi: read from document: “scope of this study was shaped by the city’s interest in understanding and comparing its compensation to the Massachusetts municipal labor market and ensuring external as well as internal equity. Municipalities must compete for talent in the same manner and markets as private industry. Conducting a salary study to evaluate the city’s compensation program was important at this time in order to ensure that they can continue to effectively attract and retain high caliber employees. Based on the option, the city chooses it would cost as low $38,000 or as high as $153,000 for an initial implementation to bring these groups of employees to the current market-based pay levels that we propose in this report. This is to bring current employees to at least entry level minimum of the new pay ranges provided.”
Carrasquillo: stated that answers should be in the document of the study. To Councilor Murphy – as far as communities used for comparison, that information should be in document, pointed to specific section of document.
Councilor Vacon: document should be sent around to councilors. Concerns when study was brought before Council before included concerns about salary ranges, and cost of implementing the study. Also, newer councilors were not a part of those discussion and may not have information. Also brought up additional concerns that need to be addressed by mayor.
Carrasquillo: Responded to concerns – if there are concerns from the past or currently, those should be forwarded to the personnel office for response.
Chair Lisi: discussed comparisons in study and confirmed that recommendations were to make up 65% of difference with averages of other communities.
Carrasquillo: clarifying that figures in summary are what the cost of implementation would be if recommendations had been taken up at the time of the study. $230,000 would include 2% cost of living adjustment (COLA) increases if study had been adopted at the time. Main point of discussion is that spreadsheet highlights employees who are not being paid industry standards.
Councilor Anderson-Burgos: Referencing Schedule B – City Clerk works hard, job has expanded, but pay hasn’t increased in over a decade. Asked about suggested frequency of studying pay and recommending increases. Asked why so much research is required.
Carrasquillo: responded that long term failure to address pay requires greater research. Majority of positions in study have not received pay adjustments in over 10 years. Agreed that Clerk’s office as well as many other city departments work very hard. City invested money to conduct the study and it should be implemented. Continuing to wait longer leads to the study becoming more outdated.
Chair Lisi: confirmed contractor that conducted study did brief Council when it was completed. Also confirmed that admin did circulate documents. Suggested tabling salary items so that documents could be fully understood by council members. Other questions of comments from other councilors?
Councilor McGiverin: to Carrasquillo – is there additional information on elected positions of mayor, treasurer, and city clerk.
Carrasquillo: confirmed that information is available, with additional research happening in other communities.
Councilor Murphy: asked about receiving object code for positions.
Carrasquillo: that can be done.
Councilor Bartley: stated there are some department heads that have received raises, would be helpful to receive information on those raises over the last five years. Expressed concerns about selective raises being given, lobbying for raises from specific employees.
Carrasquillo: clarified request from Councilor Bartley.
Chair Lisi: clarified that most employees in salary study are not department heads. Most department heads have adopted the salary study recommendations through negotiations.
Councilor Bartley: asked if salary study accounted for any benefits in making comparisons.
Carrasquillo: stated that he did not believe so.
Councilor Bartley: expressed need to address fair pay for good city employees while considering the constraints of the budget.
Carrasquillo: reiterated that salary study was five years ago and attention by Council is required.
Councilor Murphy: observed that discussion has included 2% COLA from recommendations while actual contracts have tended to have 1-1 1/2 % COLA. Suggested setting standards for increases for elected officials that take out political or personal factors.
Carrasquillo: stated that situation now is because such a mechanism has not been in place. Stated that all employees are on list because they were as of 2016 not meeting an adequate base pay.
Chair Lisi: observed that passing pay raises for elected officials will be difficult, and recalibrating pay schedule will help alleviate political nature of pay raises.
Councilor McGiverin: stated importance of looking at positions and not the people who occupy them. Stated that schedule has not been adjusted in decades, suggested that study is a template to start from. Stated that the longer we wait, the more difficult it will be on the budget.
Chair Lisi: suggested more time needed for committee members to understand information in documents and get answers from Carrasquillo on specific questions. Also stated intent to give department heads opportunity to speak. Observed that Fire Chief Przekopowski, Sgt Hart, City Clerk, Michael McManus from DPW were in attendance.
Przekopowski: stated intent to advocate for administrative assistants in his office, described the value of the work they do, pointed out they have received one raise over last decade. Also observed they are not included in highlighted employees.
Chair Lisi: clarified that highlighted positions are those that do not meet floor of salary range.
Carrasquillo: observed that process made more difficult by pay being addressed in specific and individual situations.
City Clerk Murphy McGee: Discussed how negotiations with some staff being union impacted salaries of all employees in office. Also brought up that salary has not increased in Clerk position since 2007, pointed to increased responsibilities of office.
Sgt. Hart: spoke on behalf of reserve officers – discussed need for pay increase, described value of these employees.
Carrasquillo: observed that reserve officers are part of data that is yet to come. Asked about rate in equivalent positions in other municipalities.
Sgt. Hart: was not aware, observed that Holyoke is unique from other communities, making comparisons difficult.
Maria (from Holyoke Library): discussed recent history of unequal raises in library, impact on loss of employees.
Chair Lisi: to Maria, discussing data on library pay to employees, observed that some show hourly rates, questioned which employees are full time and which are part time or temporary.
Marie: only three positions are salary, rest are paid hourly.
Carrasquillo: stated that for accounting purposes, office can extract hourly rate based on hours worked and pay earned.
Marie: stated that ideal would be for every employee to be full time, observed that good candidates for positions have come but declined job because position was part time.
Carrasquillo: stated that every department will have examples that will be separate from broader discussion of study implementation. Broader discussion is that city employees as a group are underemployed.
Chair Lisi: asked for clarification to understand “average hours worked” column.
Carrasquillo: described details that would lead to minor differences.
Chair Lisi: confirmed understanding that data shows realistic expectation of what would be paid if recommendations were adopted.
Carrasquillo: to Marie, asked for average hours worked as department head.
Marie: paid for 35 hours regardless of actual hours worked, which tends to be much more on average.
Chair Lisi: observed that stagnant wages are actually lost wages. Confirmed that data on comparable reserve officer salaries is not yet available. Asked Carrasquillo to work with Sgt . Hart to get comparison data. Asked Councilor Murphy about possibility to leave item 6 on table.
Councilor McGiverin: objected, discussed availability of data on what part time police officers make in state and nationwide. Pointed out that rising minimum wage is coming close to pay for reserve officers.
Carrasquillo: clarified that minimum wage will be $13.50 as of January, within $1 of pay for reserve officers.
Chair Lisi: comparable community data is necessary to make decisions based on real numbers.
Carrasquillo: stated he can work to put together data.
Councilor Vacon: stated that if we’re moving off package and onto item 6, package should be tabled.
Chair Lisi: suggested tabling package.
Councilor Murphy: inquired about goal: is plan for passing to be effective for FY21?
Chair Lisi: stated that what is passed can be effective for FY 22. Also stated that creating ranges doesn’t necessarily mean salary adjustments unless salary is outside floor of new range. Suggested the schedules can be adopted separately and amendments can be made.
Councilor Murphy: inquired about taking 2016 salary study, creating a schedule with a 6% adjustment, and making it effective for FY21. Suggested then making another schedule to be effective for FY22.
Carrasquillo: stated that plan is not to provide increase every fiscal year. Plan is to set new salary range and determine what individual salaries should be from there.
Chair Lisi: suggested that adjustments should reflect real numbers and not be arbitrary mediums.
Councilor Vacon: offered reminder that setting ranges grants authority to mayor to set salary within the range. Offered suggestion for language that would limit authority to move people anywhere on the range. Recommended caution on fiscal implications of setting new ranges.
Councilor McGiverin: pointed out that FY21 budget has not been set, observed that supplemental budget may come in, plus implications of state budget and federal Covid funds. Stated belief that city is behind, and too many employees have reached their max. Also suggested conferring with legal department on giving COLA increases to employees who have reached max.
Motion to table package from Councilor Vacon, seconded by Councilor Murphy. All vote in favor.
Motion made by Councilor Vacon to take up item 6, seconded by Councilor Hernandez. All vote in favor.
Chair Lisi read item 6.
Councilor McGiverin: recognized that more information is needed to address properly. Requested that item be taken up at next possible opportunity.
Chair Lisi: observed that next meeting will be a full one. Could take it up if all information is made available.
Councilor Murphy: stated that if information is not available, would be in favor of making pay range of reserve officers $20k-$25k.
Motion made to table item 6, seconded by Councilor Murphy. All vote in favor.
Councilor Vacon: recognizing that what we do has to be in coordination with mayor. Observed that there has been a struggle to get communication from mayor. This work cannot be done without the mayor.
Chair Lisi: stated that both Council and mayor have control of the process. Also stated much of the discussion was beneficial to understanding what is needed, and the way the ordinance language can be adjusted.
Councilor Vacon: suggested there is a way to give people a raise at max range, but it cannot be called a COLA.
Carrasquillo: observed that has been done in some cases, but over all goal is not satisfied.
Motion to adjourn made by Councilor Vacon, seconded by Councilor Anderson-Burgos. All vote in favor.