So many people packed Town Hall Wednesday night that officials worried that people would not be able to get out fast enough in an emergency.
Among the crush of people who filled the hallways and stairs on the first floor were many who wanted to hear Selectmen talk about fellow member Barry Greenfield's proposal to place a home rule petition question on the Town Meeting warrant in May.
The people there included firefighters, police officers, public works emploees, town and school clerical workers, custodians, library employees and school administrative assistants and teachers.
Selectman Greenfield's question would ask the town to give selectmen authority to file a petition with the Legislature — asking lawmakers to pass legislation related to pensions and health insurance for new employees.
The law would allow towns to offer alternative retirement and health insurance benefits for new employees in collective bargaining with unions.
As it stands, pensions and health benefits are mandated by the state.
Jim Snow, president of the Swampscott Firefighters' Union, said many of those who came to the meeting wanted to know what alternative pension plan Selectman Greenfield would propose for new employees.
Selectmen took no vote Wednesday on whether to place the petition question on the warrant, said the chairman of the Board of Selectmen, Rich Malagrifa.
The chairman expects the board will vote at their next meeting, later this month, to be held in a larger venue — likely the high school — to accommodate all the people who are interested in it.
On Wednesday many of those who came to Town Hall left to make sure people could come and go at the meeting without being hemmed in.
Greenfield says the retirement system in Swampscott is unsustainable.
A lawyer speaking on behalf of town employees refuted Greenfield's claims, Snow said.
In Chairman Malagrifa's introductory remarks he said there is a $38 million pension liability that has questionable sustainability.
While there was no vote by selectmen at the meeting, Malagrifa said his sense of the board is that there are enough votes among the five members to support putting the petition on the warrant.
Here is a copy of the Home Rule Petition Article:
To see if the Town will vote to authorize the Board of Selectmen to file a petition with the General Court for special legislation as set forth below to allow the Town to provide new employees hired after the effective date of this act retirement and/or health insurance benefits outside of the provisions of Chapters 32 and 32B of the General Laws c. 32 and 32B; provided, however, that the General Court may make grammatical or editorial changes of form only to such bill, unless the Board of Selectmen approves amendments to the bill before enactment by the General Court, and that the Board of Selectmen is authorized to approve amendments which shall be within the scope of the general public objectives of the petition; or to act in any manner in relation thereto.
An Act relative to Retirement and Health Insurance Benefits in the Town of Swampscott
SECTION 1. Notwithstanding the provisions of section 4B of Chapter 4 or of Chapters 32 and 32B of the General Laws, or of any other general or special law to the contrary, the town of Swampscott shall have the option at the discretion of the board of selectmen of providing a retirement/pension plan and/or health insurance benefits to employees hired after the effective date of this Act, including health insurance to such employees upon retirement, on such terms and conditions as said board of selectmen determines to be fair, reasonable and equitable, and in the best interests of the town. Prior to providing such plans or benefits, said board of selectmen shall hold at least one public hearing, notice of which shall be provided in a newspaper of general circulation in the town in each of two weeks immediately prior to said hearing. Said retirement/pension plan and/or health insurance benefits shall be subject to bargaining under chapter 150E of the General laws for employees represented by employee organizations that are covered by said chapter. The Town may provide different premiums, contribution rates, plan designs, and/or retirement benefits to different groups or classes of employees.
SECTION 2. Section 1 shall not affect the health insurance or retirement benefits of employees or retirees that were employed for the Town prior to the effective date of this Act. Section 1 shall also not affect the retirement/pension plan of any teacher or retired teacher regardless of their date of hire.
SECTION 3. This act shall take effect ninety (90) days following its passage or upon the July 1st immediately following its passage, whichever date is later.