Boston Herald Tuesday, February 8, 2005
The widow and three children of a volunteer Lancaster firefighter killed in the line of duty will be eligible for health care benefits, town voters decided last night.
Town Clerk Sue Thompson said 941 voters turned out for the special election with 643 of them approving the measure. Nearly 300 voted not to extend benefits to Claire McNamara and her children. The turnout was 22 percent.
Thompson said the town petitioned the Legislature for a special election that would let voters decide whether to give McNamara health care coverage as the widow of a retired town employee. A vote at Town Meeting last year to provide pension benefits as well as health care coverage failed by 16 votes. That vote caused an emotional rift among townsfolk, with many opposed to a one-time tax increase needed to pay for the benefits.
For McNamara to get the coverage she still must pay half the premium. Thompson said her share for family coverage would be about $6,000. The town will pay the other half.
Volunteer firefighter Martin McNamara was killed battling fire in the basement of a Lancaster farmhouse in November 2003. Because he was a volunteer, his family was not eligible for a pension or benefits.
The vote yesterday did not provide the pension either. But Gov. Mitt Romney [related, bio] has filed legislation to do so.
“For this vote we split the pension part out,” Thompson said. “We’re hoping the state will take care of the pension.”