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City Council to vote on new police contract

September 15, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Hagerstown City Council members are expected today to approve a three-year contract with Hagerstown City Police union members, officials said Monday.

Union members, by a 47-14 vote, approved the proposed contract on Sept. 10, said Carroll Braun, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3373.

The local representing Hagerstown City Police officers has 69 members, said Eric Marburger, city personnel manager.

The proposed contract includes wage increases, but it was a letter from city officials promising to study pension benefits that led to the vote in favor of the contract, Braun said.

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Officers have wanted the right to retire with full pension benefits after 25 years of service. They now must have at least 30 years on the job.

City officials have agreed to take a serious look at the retirement issue, Braun said. Union officials realize it will take time to arrive at a solution, he said.

"I think it was the retirement letter and we realize maybe we're working with a different mayor and council now," Braun said.

The union found it wasn't easy to talk about the pension issue with former mayor Steven T. Sager, he said.

Marburger said city officials are committed to working on the retirement issue and trying to find an affordable alternative.

A contract proposed by city officials was rejected by union members on Aug. 19 because of sticking points with pension and wages.

The new proposed contract calls for pay hikes, restructuring of the pay scale and increased health insurance premiums for dependents, Marburger said.

"It provides for some nice wage increases in exchange for some built-in overtime," Marburger said.

There were, however, some tradeoffs.

For instance, officers receive overtime plus a $20 bonus per court appearance, he said. Starting on July 1, 1998, officers will no longer receive that $20 bonus, Marburger said.

The bonus money will be rolled into officers' base pay, he said. The total increase in cost to the city from the rollover will be roughly $35,000 a year, he said.

The contract proposal includes restructuring the pay scale for new hires so patrol officers' salaries increase at a slower rate, Marburger said.

Marburger said he expects council members to approve the contract on Tuesday during a 4 p.m. special meeting.

"I'm delighted we could come up with a mutually agreeable contract and get the negotiations behind us so we could move on," Marburger said.

The union has been operating under the conditions of a contract that expired June 30. If approved, the proposed contract would take effect retroactively to July 1, Marburger said.

The proposed contract would expire on June 30, 2000, he said.

The relationship between the city and police has been strained at times. Several officers staged a sickout on Aug. 16, police have said.

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