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Ferrera will continue fight for residency

Date: 6/28/2013

By G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD — City Council President James Ferrera said he is not done with changing the way the city deals with its residency requirement for salaried employees.

Despite a defeat on June 26 of his proposal to cut the salaries of 32 employees and send them a letter giving them six months find a home in the city that employs them, Ferrera said the issue is "far from resolved."

He told Reminder Publications he would "vigorously lobby" for changes to the current city ordinance to ensure that existing waivers are not "grandfathered in."

Ferrera said he was "disappointed" the council did not use the budget as a means to enforce residency.

Ferrera also disputed statements made by City Solicitor Edward Pikula that his method was not legal.

"I strongly believe the facts are on the City Council side," Ferrera said.

The deputy planning director, the senior project manager for economic development, the director of housing and the director of human resources are among the city staffers who were granted a waiver to live outside the city.

"It's time to move in or move on," Ferrera said at his press conference on June 24.

Other members of the council as well as civic leaders joined Ferrera.

The action would not affect any collective bargaining unit in the city.

Under the proposal Ferrera discussed, all of the people who currently have waivers to avoid living in the city will have six months to find a home here. After that their job would be eliminated. The council would only fund these positions for six months, Ferrera explained, and would reinstate the salaries once a candidate was hired.

So far, Ferrera and his fellow councilors have found 32 city-side personnel on waivers who represent nearly $2 million in payroll. They have not yet looked at the waivers in the School Department.

"This has nothing to do with personalities or politics," Ferrera stressed. "It has to do with principles."

City Council Vice President Bud Williams sees the issue as one of economic development. The city employees help Springfield by buying homes here, paying property and excise taxes and shopping in local businesses, he explained.

State Rep. Benjamin Swan noted, "The people we're talking about don't vote in Springfield."

The people on the list ranged from a van driver who earns $13,350.48 who lives in Ludlow to a doctor working in the Health and Human Services Department who earns $147,000.36 and lives in Northampton. Two on the list live in Connecticut, while one drives from Huntington for her job.

Ferrera said the city's residency requirement "has been nothing more than a joke."

In response to Ferrera's proposal, Mayor Domenic Sarno released the following statement: "My position on residency continues to be, as it has all along; to make sure that from rank and file employees to top level executives we have the best qualified individuals for the position no matter what creed, color or background. Everything being equal, Springfield residents are always given first preference. My administration's goal is to attract top level talent, who will execute and perform for the taxpayers of Springfield."