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Joint sewer board negotiates with union

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CARTHAGE — Members of the Carthage/West Carthage Water Pollution Control Facility management board are split over a tentative labor agreement with employees.

Main points of the proposal call for a five-year contract, a clothing allowance in lieu of purchasing uniforms, a change in insurance from Select Plan to the HRA Plan with employees continuing to pay for health insurance starting at $1,000 and increasing the contribution by $100 each year, and raises of 2 percent for the first three years of the contract and 2.5 percent for the last two years.

During the July 22 meeting, the Carthage representatives, Trustees Rebecca M. Vary, Kathleen E. Latremore and Chairman Michael F. Astafan, were in favor of the proposed agreement, while the West Carthage representatives, Trustees Scott J. Sullivan and Robert J. Peluso and Mayor Scott M. Burto, were opposed, resulting in a deadlocked vote.

According to Mr. Sullivan, the West Carthage representatives were not part of the negotiation process and had seen the tentative agreement only at the previous meeting.

“They didn’t negotiate the way we wanted them to negotiate,” Mr. Sullivan said. “We could have saved the villages a lot of money and given them (the employees) a comparable insurance plan. We want to go back into negotiations.”

The results of the vote were sent to the Teamsters Union, which represents the employees, and according to Mr. Astafan, another vote will be taken when all board members are present. Carthage Trustee Linda R. Smith-Spencer was absent from the meeting.

The employees have been without a contract since the end of March.

In a separate matter, the board came to a compromise with the employees on a grievance concerning the removal of water coolers. As a cost saving measure, the board had water provided by an outside vendor removed from the plant, since potable water produced by the villages’ joint water system is available to employees for consumption. The union said the removal of the water coolers was a reduction of standards for general working conditions and it was prepared to go to the next step, arbitration, if the purchased water and coolers were not returned. The board settled the grievance by agreeing to purchase two water coolers and jugs that will be filled with tap water.

The board gave its approval for John Lehman, John Lawrence, Michael Brown and Michael Marcum to attend the Northern New York Water Works Conference training for gas detection systems on Aug. 23 in Wanakena. The cost is $40 per person, to include mileage reimbursement.

At Mr. Burto’s request, the time of the management board’s meeting was changed to 6 p.m. until further notice. Last month the mayor requested the time change so more members could attend on a regular basis. The board meets the third Wednesday of the month, alternating venues between the two villages’ offices.

In his monthly report, water quality supervisor Bart Crary said there were no violations of the plant’s State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit limits. However, Climax Paperboard and Packaging of West Carthage had temperature violations in June. According to Mr. Astafan, this is a new state Department of Environmental Conservation requirement. He said discharging above the temperature range can “kill off the good bugs,” referring to the microorganisms that break down the waste.

“We could fine Climax $14,500, but the right thing to do is work it out with them,” Mr. Astafan said. “We want to agree on a temperature range which is agreeable to us and acceptable to DEC.”

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