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South Boston looks to raise starting salaries for firefighters, police / April 01, 2021
South Boston Town Council held its monthly joint work session on Monday and covered topics ranging from increases in salary for South Boston police and firefighters to solar farms to the fall elections.

To stay competitive for hiring entry level employees in the police and fire departments, South Boston Town Manager Tom Raab recommended boosting starting salaries by $5,000. Council offered no objections.

“There is a real problem getting new applicants,” said Raab. Many neighboring counties offer higher starting pay.

This is the third pay restructuring that Raab has recommended in six years as a way to stay competitive. The town has funding available for the salary increase due to the retirement of longtime SBPD Chief Jim Binner, SBPD Sgt. Tim VanAernem, and waiting until February to hire Dennis Barker as assistant town manager after position became available last September. The starting salary for SBPD officers will move from $35,000 to $40,000 and new hires in the fire department will see pay increase from $32,000 to $37,000.

Just prior to the meeting Monday night, several Council members attended a presentation by Dimension Renewable Energy on solar farms and how local residents could apply for a discount on their utility bill. The solar company is interested in old dairy farmland across from South Boston Speedway to construct a small 4-megawatt array.

“I’m not sure it’s the right project for the town,” said Raab. The town is taking another look at solar because potential properties could be utilized for town development.

“I have a lot of questions and am uncomfortable with the clarity of the project,” said Bob Hughes, chair of the Current Issues Committee.

An adjacent property owner contacted Councilman Joe Chandler regarding the solar farm, who questioned if there is enough room for a vegetation buffer and if it would be an eyesore for those who visit Edmunds Park.

In other business, Council members offered no questions in regards to an application for a Community Development Block Grant through Southside Planning District Commission. These funds will facilitate renovating and repairing 14 homes on North Main Street. The estimated cost is near the $1 million dollar mark.

Town elections held in May will move to November with passage of a new state law. The shift will increase the term served by current members of the school board, town councils, and the mayor by six months. The town is researching the local charter to see if any amendments need to be made to comply with the state code.

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