Council approvess police contract

January 15, 2003|by STACEY DANZUSO

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Chambersburg Borough Council members and Chambersburg police officers applauded a new four-year contract Tuesday that eliminates the much-debated residency requirement.

The council unanimously approved the contract, which the Chambersburg Police Officers Association adopted last week.

The contract removes a thorn from the sides of police officers by ending the residency requirement. Officers no longer are required to live in the borough but must live within 15 miles of police headquarters.

Officers who do live in the borough will receive a $200 annual bonus, Borough Solicitor Tom Finucane said.

In recent years, a handful of officers have left the department due to the residency requirement.

The contract goes into effect immediately and is retroactive to Jan. 1.

Negotiations began this spring and soon moved into arbitration. The deal was finally hammered out by several borough officials and officers last month.


"This was a long time coming. I believe it was a good agreement and a lot of issues were resolved," Mayor Tom Newcomer said.

Newcomer had publicly apologized to the officers this fall after they filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board alleging he swore at several officers and tried to intimidate them when they announced they would seek arbitration.

Borough and police officials called the contract a fair compromise that avoided arbitration, saving both sides time and money.

Other highlights of the contract include:

  • Salary increases of 2 percent in 2003, 3 percent in 2004, 3.5 percent in 2005 and 4 percent in 2006.

  • A retirement provision that allows officers to declare their intent to retire in a year, allowing the borough time to begin the process of hiring and training a new officer who will be ready to be on the street by the time the officer retires. In exchange, the retiring officer will receive a $2,500 bonus.

  • Extended Cobra insurance benefits for those retiring with more than 20 years of service.

  • A sick leave comp time incentive, providing one comp day for every six consecutive months of no sick leave usage by an officer.

The proposed contract is the result of a six-hour meeting last month between Council President Bill McLaughlin, Councilmen Carl Helman and John Redding, Borough Manager Eric Oyer, Officer Walter Bietsch, Sgt. John Phillipy and Cpl. Michael Rosenberry.

No attorneys were allowed so everyone felt comfortable speaking his mind, McLaughlin said.

"Sometimes what needs to be done is change things around a little and have people sit down together and listen to each other," he said.

All involved say a new, open relationship between council and the police department was forged during negotiations.

"We hope that we have laid the foundation for better lines of communication with borough staff," said Bietsch on behalf of the two dozen officers at Tuesday's council meeting.

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