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Council examines Boston firefighters arbitration

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Council examines Boston firefighters arbitration

The Boston City Council is set to take up a controversial 19 percent pay raise awarded to city firefighters by an arbitrator.

The council must approve funding for the award, which Mayor Thomas Menino has criticized as being out of line with what other city unions have received.

The city council has scheduled two public hearings related to the firefighters arbitration. The first was scheduled to be held yesterday.

Council President Michael Ross has said the award could be rejected if the firefighters union doesn’t make concessions to lower the estimated $74 million cost of the raises.

Arbitrator Dana Edward Eischen wrote in his decision that the 19 percent raise over four years was warranted in exchange for a mandatory drug and alcohol testing policy for firefighters.

Four get probation for Boston Big Dig concrete fraud

Four former employees of a company convicted of supplying substandard concrete to Boston’s troubled Big Dig highway project have avoided prison time for their roles in the scheme.

A federal judge  last Thursday sentenced Lynn, Mass., resident Mark Blais and Canterbury, Conn., resident John Farrar to probation, home confinement and community service. The judge sentenced two other employees to probation and home confinement.

Federal prosecutors had requested prison time. U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz says the government is “disappointed” by the sentences.

The Big Dig replaced an elevated highway with a series of tunnels, ramps and bridges. It was plagued by cost overruns, falling debris, leaks and other problems.

Aggregate Industries Northeast Region says only a tiny percentage of the concrete it provided was ruled noncompliant with specifications.

Mass. Senate approves new fees for inmates

The Massachusetts Senate has approved a budget amendment that would allow sheriffs to collect up to 10 percent of an inmate’s wages earned while working in jail or a work-release program.

Under the measure, child support, victim fees and other debts would have to be paid before the inmate fee is assessed. A quarter of all inmate fees would go to mental health programs for prisoners.

Any outstanding balance would be wiped away if a released inmate stays out of trouble for two years.

Massachusetts House lawmakers approved another proposal that would charge prison inmates $5 a day.

Critics of the fees say they will make it harder for prisoners to get a foothold in society when they are released and could drive them back to a life of crime.

Mass. reapplies for “Race to the Top” education money

Massachusetts Education officials have reapplied for federal “Race to the Top” grants with what they say is a “significantly stronger” proposal.

Massachusetts was not among the two states that won the first round grants, announced earlier this year.

This time, 276 school districts and charter schools signed a commitment to the proposal’s initiatives — 20 more than in the first phase.

The updated proposal outlines the development of a new system to evaluate teacher and administrator effectiveness.

It also includes plans to ensure high poverty schools get good teachers and that educators get what they need to help students excel.