The Belfast City Council has approved the purchase of a piece of land on the corner of Belfast Common that residents have long used as though it already belonged to the city. The Council also gave raises to employees represented by the Public Works Union and to the city manager.

“People always say, ‘Why are there stakes sticking up in the middle of a city park?'” City Manager Joe Slocum told the Council Feb. 2, describing the half-acre parcel at the corner of Front and Miller streets that to the untrained eye appears to constitute the northeast corner of Belfast Common. In his manager’s report, Slocum described the parcel belonging to Joanne McNally as “really … part of Belfast Common today.”

But he cautioned, “The moment someone else buys it and turns it into a multifamily or even a couple of single high-priced homes, then whatever happens at the Common will have an impact on those residences and whatever happens at those residences will have a dramatic impact on the future use and enjoyment of the Common.”

The Council agreed to buy the lot for $299,000, accepting as a gift from the owner the $66,000 difference between the price paid and the $365,000 market price.

Public works employees and the city manager each effectively got 3 percent raises, retroactive to July 2009. The manager’s raise is for one year. The public works contract is for three years with 2 percent raises in the second and third years.

During the first year of the contract, the Public Works Union agreed to retract part of a previous contract in which employees got raises that were 2.5 percent higher than those received by other city employees. In exchange, they had agreed to pay 10 percent of their health insurance premiums. The new contract adds an additional 0.5 percent to the 2.5 in the old contract and restores full coverage of health insurance premiums during the fiscal year 2009-10.

In other business, the Council:

Made the following appointments: Tanya Mitchell, office assistant; Didier Bonner-Ganter, tree warden; Russell Barber, Planning Board second alternate position.

Extended the Belfast Maskers’ use of a portion of Steamboat Landing by two weeks, from June 21 to Aug. 16.

Tabled action on creating a city surplus policy.

Received the 2008-09 municipal audit from Robert Dorr of C.H. Dorr & Co.

Closed nine inactive capital project accounts, moving $254,972.30 to the city’s undesignated fund balance (surplus).