Finance committee sides against proposed police contract
In a clear sign of challenging economic times, two of three members of City Council’s finance committee sent a strong message to the city Bureau of Police and its Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 29 union Tuesday, giving a proposed four-year police collective bargaining contract negative recommendations.
Councilman Adam Yoder and Councilwoman Bonnie Katz, both Republicans, voiced concern about the contract proposal to increase salaries for the unionized officers that Mayor Derek Slaughter and Chief Damon R. Hagan negotiated. Councilwoman Liz Miele, committee chairwoman, said she would favor a positive recommendation and voted against the negative recommendation.
The collective bargaining unit’s proposed contract asked for police to get a salary increase of 1 percent, 2 percent, 2 percent and 3 percent over the next four years.
The city administration proposal was for no salary increase next year and the union countered with a 1 percent increase, Hagan said.
“My opinion is, if we went back to union, they would go to arbitration at this point – but that is my opinion,” Hagan said.
“I was hoping to work with the union to get a little more seeing that a number of these are likely unsustainable and I trust the chief with his comments,” Yoder said.
Yoder noted how the council and administration had no other “avenues to pursue and we are at where we are at.”
Miele said it was understandable that some on council were chaffing a little bit because of the city economic burden.
But, she noted, the unions (fire, transit and police) have been working with the city to make concessions.
“They may not be as generous as we’d like to see,” Miele said.
Katz said the year ahead and the revenue reductions anticipated due to COVID-19 with business privilege tax and other sources of income are making city council members “frightened for what could happen.”
She said while this year remains a challenge, next year is expected to be a bigger challenge.
In a related vote, the committee recommended the hiring of candidate Brandon Wheeler as the next police officer who would start, if hired by council, on Jan. 4.
That is the day Assistant Police Chief Mark Sechrist is expected to retire.
The complement will be at 48 officers, if Wheeler is approved for hire, but for only one hour, Hagan said.
More efforts continue to get qualified candidates interested in becoming officers after graduating from police academies, he said. Wheeler is a former Mill Hall resident and graduate of Mansfield University police academy.