Council: New police contract caps pensions

Saying they welcomed a city police contract that begins to take swipes at capping pensions and requiring police to contribute to health care costs, City Council unanimously approved a four-year contract Thursday between the city and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 29.

Addressing council, Mayor Gabriel J. Campana said the contract calls for raises of 2 percent for 2013, 2.5 percent for 2014, 2.5 percent for 2015 and 2.5 percent for 2016.

Campana said the contract was possible through rigorous negotiation and effort from his team of Michelle Casale, human resources director, Police Chief Gregory A. Foresman and assistant solicitor J. David Smith in negotiations with union president, police Lt. Steve Helm.

Campana earlier said while William E. Nichols Jr., director of finance has been an integral part of such negotiations in the past, during this round, Nichols did not play a part.

Among the important changes in the contract is it puts a cap on pensions by placing them at a first-year officer’s rate of $42,057, Campana said.

It also asks for health care contribution for any new hires, as the city picks up 80 percent of the costs and the officers must pay up to 20 percent for the first year. It changes on a gradual scale as the police gain experience.

Councilman Jonathan Williamson said the contract put the needs of taxpayers first and shows savings compared to overtime pensions the city had been used to doling out.

“Health care is not where we want to end up, but it is a strong and appreciated first step,” he said.

Campana said by not entering into arbitration with the union the taxpayers were spared an estimated $100,000 in legal costs and those associated with behind-doors discussion with the union.

In addition, Campana said, the city is saving $50,000 because the budgeted amount was for 3 percent and the increases are between 2 and 2.5 percent.

Council also took on the issue of a request to purchase a $350,000 records-management system for police use.

Council voted to approve an amendment to first require council authorize a job description for a full-or-part-time information technology position before the implementation of the system from Spillman Technologies.

In order words, the purchase of the system that would make police work more efficient, track crimes, map hot spots in the city and help police communicate with each other and keep better electronic records, is contingent upon council approving the job description and hiring the individual.

“We’ve got a mess at City Hall,” Councilman N. Clifford “Skip” Smith said of the computers and email functions. “We’re in the worse stage possible before collapse.”

It was urged by council that dialogue occur on how best to repair the problem and whether a 40-hour-per week technologist would be needed. Based on that, Campana can hire as could determines whether it be full or part-time before any payments are made on the system.

“Someone must be in place before the system is delivered,” Solicitor Norman Lubin said.

Campana said the hiring of the individual would likely occur within the next 60 days.