The Municipal Center in Brattleboro. (Kayla Rice/Reformer)
The Municipal Center in Brattleboro. (Kayla Rice/Reformer)

BRATTLEBORO -- The Selectboard has agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding with the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 98, which seeks to represent 23 clerical and administrative staff members in a collective bargaining agreement.

The board voted 4-0 at Tuesday night's Selectboard meeting to move ahead with negotiations with the union, which will bargain for contracts for clerical staff members from the town clerk's and listers' offices, the Brooks Memorial Library, the finance, planning, public works and recreation and parks departments, as well as from the police and fire departments.

Board Chairman David Gartenstein was not at Tuesday's meeting as he continues to recuperate following a bicycle accident he had a little over a week ago.

The other board members wished him well and there was no indication given when he might return.

The agreement which the board approved Tuesday recognizes the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 98, as the exclusive bargaining agent for the employees, and opens the doors for negotiations between the union and the town.

"What we're being asked to do tonight is to voluntarily recognize the union so that they can start collective bargaining," said Selectboard Vice Chairwoman Kate O'Connor.

If the Selectboard agrees to a contract with the union, then every non-management employee who is not considered a confidential staff member will be represented by a union.

Confidential employees are those who work closely with management, such as the town manager's secretary.

The town currently also bargains with unions representing the police and fire departments and a third union that represents employees in the public works and parks and recreation departments.

The agreement that was approved Tuesday will now allow clerical members of the public works and parks and recreation departments to be represented by a union.

O'Connor told the board Tuesday that the town administration received a petition in February with 17 staff signatures asking that the union be recognized.

Since then, O'Connor said, interim Town Manager Patrick Moreland and town attorney Bob Fisher have been working with union representatives to make sure that everybody who needs to be represented would be included under the new agreement.

"We worked slowly and patiently and carefully with the International Union of Operating Engineers and we've got a memorandum of understanding which will begin the process of collective bargaining," Moreland said, adding the town has not recognized a new union since 1995. "It doesn't happen every day."

At Tuesday night's meeting Finance Director John O'Connor gave an update on the fiscal year 2014 budget which will end June 30. With almost 92 percent of the fiscal year complete, O'Connor said the town's spending is trending very closely to projections, with General Fund expenditures at about 93 percent. He explained that the Selectboard has budgeted a deficit due to transfers form the Capital Fund, and he said with those transfers taken out, town spending is actually at about 87 percent, which is below the target. O'Connor also said the town is benefiting from a lower number of delinquent taxes this year, which he said is attributed to a more aggressive approach from the town.

The Selectboard disbanded the Skating Rink Committee, which has completed its work on the Nelson Withington Skating Rink repairs, and the board also agreed to reduce the Skatepark Committee from nine members to seven, on a request from the committee.

And the board approved a request from the police department to increase the town's Governor's Highway Safety Program grant from $2,000 to $8,000 to help pay for additional traffic safety enforcement of aggressive and distracted drivers.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.