NEW BEDFORD (WBSM) — New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell is looking to do away with the City’s residency requirement for certain employees and make changes to the requirement for other employees as well.

Mitchell submitted a letter to the New Bedford City Council back in January seeking to amend the City’s ordinance on residency requirements to remove the requirement for the Unit C, or non-union management-level, City employees.

The council’s Committee on Ordinances, chaired by Ward 6 Councilor Ryan Pereira, will consider Mitchell’s proposal at tonight’s meeting. It will be held at 7 p.m. and will stream live on the City’s website.

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Mitchell wrote in his letter to the council that the Unit C residency requirement, which was enacted in 2021, “has proven a major obstacle to the ability of the Administration to successfully attract and hire qualified candidates to several critical department head positions, as well as discouraging interest in open management positions across city government.”

The current ordinance requires all Unit C employees with less than 10 years of employment with the City of New Bedford to either live in the city or receive a 10 percent reduction in salary.

“To our knowledge, no other municipal government in the nation has adopted a non-resident ‘pay penalty’ like that presently in place in New Bedford,” Mitchell wrote.

Mitchell wrote in the letter that New Bedford residency could still “informally be taken into consideration” during the hiring process.

Previously, the city council unanimously chose not to repeal the 10 percent pay penalty back in 2023.

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Mitchell Is Looking to Change Other Residency Requirements

WBSM has obtained a letter that Mitchell sent on March 12, 2024 to New Bedford Firefighters Union President Billy Sylvia and Shelley Avila-Martins, President of AFSCME Local 851 (the union that represents city workers who are not part of the police or fire unions).

In that letter, Mitchell reiterates his hope to remove the residency requirement for Unit C employees, but wrote “we also should consider its fairness to the City’s union employees, who still would be subject to the residency requirements in their collective bargaining agreements.”

Currently, AFSCME members must be city residents throughout the duration of their employment, while firefighters must be city residents for the first 10 years of their employment. The police union members must be city residents for the first five years of their employment.

“While I believe that a temporary residency requirement is appropriate for public safety employees as their jobs demand a deep familiarity with the City, there is room to make the requirements more suitable,” he wrote.

Contributed Photo
Contributed Photo

Mitchell said that if the city council adopts his proposed amendment regarding Unit C employees, “effective immediately I will cease enforcement of the residency requirement for AFSCME members entirely and members of the firefighters union who have reached five years of service, which would equalize their obligation with that of the police,” Mitchell wrote.

He also reiterated that these proposed changes are based on the city council agreeing to remove the residency requirement for Unit C employees “and is not intended to be an offer as part of a collective bargaining process,” he wrote.

New Bedford Mayors

New Bedford has had 49 different mayors, along with two acting mayors and one interim mayor.

Gallery Credit: Tim Weisberg

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