WARWICK — Council Finance Committee Chair Ed Ladouceur expressed misgivings about the contract ironed out between Mayor Joseph Solomon and Warwick Firefighters Local 2748 Monday night, then residents urged delaying voting, but the clock ran out at midnight.
In November, Solomon announced the contract, touting it as cost-neutral deal that will save the city more than $450,000 in the first year while establishing Warwick’s first OPEB trust reducing retiree health care costs for new hires by 27 percent. Solomon said the contract also reduces time off, increases management rights, and resolves the former Tier II pension and sick time payout issues.
“To Mayor Solomon’s credit, he did a great job,” Ladouceur said.
But Ladouceur said he had lingering questions about how the contract addressed health care and worried that cost of living (COLA) was unchanged from the previous contract.
Budget watchdogs Ken Block and Rob Cote each expressed their own doubts about the contract and urged the council to postpone voting on the agreement until it could be reviewed more thoroughly.
“You don’t have to do that tonight and I urge you not to do it,” Block said.
“I’m a little annoyed by the fact that the city actuary isn’t here,” Cote said. “I’m disappointed that the mayor isn’t here,” to answer questions about the agreement, Cote said.
Both men were instrumental in bringing to light an illicit overtime side-deal between the firefighter’s union and members of former Mayor Scott Avedisian’s administration in 2018.
Later during the hours-long finance committee meeting, which ate most of the five-hour event, Ladouceur voted against moving the contract for favorable action at the full city council meeting. The other two members, Councilmen Steve McAlister and Timothy Howe, voted for the measure.
Those were the only votes the contract was going to get that evening, however, since the full Council’s first order of business was to recess in to executive session for several minutes, returning to end the meeting as it had stretched past midnight.
“After 12 o’clock, discussion stops,” according to the city charter, Ladouceur said.
Nonetheless, the council’s failure to act on the measure was an apparent surprise to the few dozen firefighters who had stayed seated in council chambers through the night waiting for word on the deal.
Ladouceur said there was little choice, since the contract clearly requires more discussion and their time for the night had run out.
“I appreciate the time that everyone put into getting it to where it is now,” Ladouceur said.
The council’s next meeting will be Jan. 6.