Retirement Board to again take up COLA

LEOMINSTER -- Just seven days after the Retirement Board voted down the first cost-of-living increase for city retirees in five years, another attempt will be made at 9 a.m. Tuesday, according to one board member.

"We're going to try again to get a COLA for city retirees," said elected board member John Picone.

During last week's meeting, the board voted twice on proposals to raise the COLA 3 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively.

Both failed by a vote of 2-2, with Picone and elected member John Perry voting for the increase and board Chairman and city Comptroller John Richard and member and city Treasurer David Laplante voting against.

According to board rules, a tie vote does not allow a proposal to pass.

Appointed member Mark O'Donnell did not attend last week's meeting.

Perry and Picone requested Tuesday's meeting because of O'Donnell's absence and in the hope if the proposal passes, pensioners would see an increase in their monthly pension checks beginning in July, the start of a new fiscal year.

Richard said Friday that O'Donnell has confirmed he will attend Tuesday's meeting, which will be held in the City Hall's Council Chambers.

"I think it will be a pretty short meeting," said Richard.

The attempt last week to increase the retirees' COLA was the second in as many months.

When the board met in May, at which O'Donnell was present but Picone was absent, Perry made two motions to increase the COLA.

Both failed when Perry's motions were not offered a second by O'Donnell, Laplante or Richard.

Nona Ojala, who is a school district retiree and member of the School Committee, spoke during last week's hearing supporting the COLA increase.

However, she was not confident having the full board voting on the increase would change the outcome.

"There's a gut feeling that Mark (O'Donnell) will side with Richard and Laplante," said Ojala.

Despite that, she's "pretty sure (O'Donnell) has been hearing from people."

She hopes O'Donnell is listening.

"Anything would be good, and I think the retirees deserve it," she said.

During the meetings in May and last week, emotions ran high from several retirees who spoke in favor of the increase.

Ojala thinks there will again be a large group of retirees attending Tuesday's meeting.

"I think it's important for people to show up," she said.

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