Amityville trustees have chosen a law firm to represent the village in a July contract talk with the police union, but only after some acrimonious talk among themselves.
The 4-1 vote, with trustee Kevin Smith opposing, authorizes payment of up to $12,500 to Melville-based Lamb & Barnosky, with an hourly rate of $275, the lowest price of three firms from which the village sought price quotes.
Mayor James Wandell, Deputy Mayor Jessica Bernius and trustee Nick LaLota have said the village's fiscal health rides on the outcome of the July 14 talk where they will ask the PBA to make earnings concessions and reopen a contract that runs through 2018.
Trustee Dennis Siry, who voted to hire the firm, has criticized the tone from the trustees as needlessly antagonistic toward the union, and both he and Smith have complained about being excluded from discussions of the issue by their fellow trustees.
So it was that at a Monday night meeting when trustees also approved payment of $730,185 in insurance premiums and refinancing of $2.4 million in bonds, the retainer sparked the most discussion.
"We don't know how long it's going to take, what we're going to get involved in," Smith said, explaining his intention to abstain from the vote. "I didn't have enough time with this and I'm not comfortable with it."
While he later said in an interview that he was in favor of the talk and "anything we can do to help our costs," he cast a no vote after Wandell rejected his decision to abstain.
When LaLota suggested that "maybe only a few members up here want to address this issue and do it with counsel," Smith shot back: "I have to tell you that's not true.
"The issue is the way we're going about it," Smith said.
Minutes later, Siry asked about the timing of the contract talk. "We're going bankrupt, Dennis," LaLota said. "Unless you do something to steer the ship in another direction, we'll go bankrupt."
Among the troubles the village faces are rising insurance premiums for its 110 employees, some of which exceeded the amount budgeted for this year, LaLota said, forcing the village to turn to a recently established contingency fund to make up the difference.
Wandell said the village would continue to look for cheaper rates, and noted that bond refinancing could save the village as much as $80,000 in coming years.But, in response to a plea for amity on the dais from Bay Village Civic Association president Joan Donnison, he offered no assurance: "This is not kumbaya up here. We're going to disagree."