Home News and Features Barre City Municipal Employee Union Contract Ratified

Barre City Municipal Employee Union Contract Ratified

The "Youth Triumphant" statue in Barre, Vermont by C. Paul Jennewein represents the youth who fought in World War I. Photo by Carla Occaso.
Barre City and its municipal workers’ union representatives recently reached a contract agreement. 

The newly inked three-year agreement is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2023, according to a Feb. 28 announcement by Barre City Manager Nicolas Storellicastro. The union — the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — is commonly known as the AFSCME, and Barre City’s local is 1369. Represented by this union are 30 Department of Public Works employees in the streets, water, and sewer division and also the water and wastewater treatment plants along with cemetery workers. These workers perform such duties as plowing snow, fixing streets, maintaining the water system, troubleshooting sewer problems, and tending to the cemeteries.

Some notable points of the contract include a 5% cost-of-living adjustment, with $0.02 step adjustments for steps six through 25. Also, an inflation stipend of 1.5% of fiscal year 2022 gross salaries and an on-call pay increase for treatment plant operators. It also involves lowered employee health insurance premiums and safety commitments pertaining to staff working on streets, water, and sewers. This contract should help “recruit and retain employees as infrastructure improvements ramp up,” Storellicastro wrote.

“I want to thank AFSCME employees and representatives for a productive and successful negotiation,” Storellicastro said. “It was clear from early in the process that we shared many goals in reaching a fair contract for Barre City taxpayers and our employees. This contract will set competitive yet affordable wages, and allows the city to recruit and retain employees as we undertake a renewed focus on infrastructure improvements to our streets, water, and wastewater systems.” 

Russell Tucker, AFSCME chapter chair, and Barre City Streets Department foreman, said, “This is a fair contract that was widely supported by our union members. It will benefit city residents and employees over the term of the contract.” 

Barre City had a busy calendar year for 2022, according to the most recent town report submitted by William Ahearn, P.E., the city engineer/director of public works. Activities for the year included reconstruction projects, capital improvements, sidewalks, and other projects. Warren Street, Ayers Street, and Maple Avenue all had significant construction. Additionally, traffic-calming plans were implemented and will continue to be a focus to thwart unsafe driving. And pedestrian safety projects, such as shortening crosswalk lengths and relocating crosswalks, were implemented as well. Other traffic safety measures included adding signage and putting radar signs on North and South Main streets as well as Washington and Prospect streets. This is in addition to asphalt repairs done to potholes, manholes, and catch basins.

As for the water end of things, Ahearn reported that “this fiscal year was the second year in many that the flushing operations resulted in almost no complaints of dirty water during operations.” In light of that, the department replaced mainline water pipes on Upper Warren Street and also addressed water quality and fire hydrant functions. The department also deployed a new flushing sequence system to prevent residual iron and sediment from moving through the system. The Water Distribution staff handled 220 scheduled appointments and less than 100 dispatch events, including seven water main breaks.

On the sewer end of things, public works staff dealt with surface drainage problems involving inspections as well as dye tests or pipeline cameras. Works staff also reported to clean, repair, and replace storm sewers in immediate need. The most common demand was for clearing drains clogged with ice and snow. The city rebuilt more than 40 catch basins, storm lines, and drain structures in 2022. Also, there were 50 after-hours call-outs to sanitary sewer events. Daily sewer operations included cleaning river crossing siphons each month and other matters. And looking to the future, the earthwork, piping, and tank-related construction for the North Main Pump Station project was completed by Sept. 22. As a result of supply chain issues, the project is scheduled to be completed by the second half of 2023.

And relating to wastewater treatment, the facility operated well all year, treating over 752,020 gallons of wastewater. Some operational changes included aeration changes for new permit limits on ammonia, nitrogen, and sludge handling. New biosolids equipment is operational, making improvements to the sludge dewatering process. Also, a 20-year facility review is underway.

Overall, the Department of Public Works staff documented more than 1,000 reports of citizen concerns — most referred to action by the department. Some were just informational, whereas others were significant. Ahearn writes that citizen reports help the department find problems while they are small and allow for correction before bigger problems arise. Ahearn further asked citizens to keep the reports coming, and he expressed his appreciation for the taxpayers of the city of Barre.