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City Council renews employee assistance program following debate

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Watertown City Council members Jeffrey M. Smith and Joseph M. Butler Jr. are not so sure the city is getting its money’s worth for an employee assistance program that has been offered for years.

On Monday night, they voted against a $7,012.20 contract with Northern Employee Assistance Services, 167 Polk St., that offers the city’s 350 employees and their family members a program designed to help them deal with problems affecting their jobs and lives. The rate is $20.15 per employee; the city picks up the entire tab.

But Mr. Smith wondered if the program is worth renewing because only 17 city employees used it last year. Mr. Butler said maybe the city can find another way to provide a similar program “on a case-by-case basis.”

“I’m not going to support it because it’s not being utilized,” Mr. Smith said.

On Monday night, the council voted 3-2 to renew the contract with the agency.

The program helps people with such situations as a job loss in the family, substance abuse and addiction, financial difficulties and stress in the home or workplace. The services employees use are kept confidential.

In a Jan. 17 memo to City Manager Sharon A. Addison, executive director William W. Bowman wrote the agency has added new training and may offer an online orientation feature.

As the result of the questions at Monday night’s meeting, Ms. Addison said she will look at other programs that may be offered to help employees in that manner.

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