Lower Mills civic group urges City Council to reject firefighter contract

The Lower Mills Civic Association on Tuesday voted to urge city councillors to reject the firefighters' arbitration award.

The arbitration awards 19.2 percent salary increase over four years, including a 2.5 percent increase in exchange for random drug and alcohol testing.

“I just think it’s too much,” said Richard O’Mara, a member of the Lower Mills Civic Association who pushed for the vote.

O’Mara estimated there were between 35 people to 40 people - the usual number of people - in attendance at St. Gregory’s auditorium for the civic group's monthly meeting.

“At a time when the private sector has been dealing with cutbacks the last three or four years, drops in wages and furloughs, to be granting anybody a 19 percent raise at this point is irresponsible,” O’Mara said.

Members of the association, along with neighborhood activists and local lawmakers, have also been lobbying city officials to stop the proposed closure of the Lower Mills branch library. Library trustees voted last month to close Lower Mills and three others, citing fiscal constraints and a new "vision" for the library system.

The 13-member City Council on Wednesday received the appropriation for the contract from Mayor Thomas Menino, who says the award blasts a hole in the city's fiscal 2011 budget. The council has 60 days to vote on the deal, which has an estimated cost of $74 million.

Officials with the firefighters union have said they remain confident they have the votes.

At the weekly City Council meeting on Wednesday, Council President Michael Ross said he was willing to vote against the arbitration award if the union did not agree to several concessions.

Two city councillors have publicly staked out positions: West Roxbury's John Tobin said he's voting for it, while Roxbury's Chuck Turner says he's voting against.

Dorchester's Maureen Feeney, while acknowleding that she had promised last year to vote for the contract before the award was announced, said, "We all need to do our due diligence."

"I do think because of the fiscal environment we need to give this a hard look," she said Tuesday.