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Borough, police OK labor pact

February 13, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. - McConnellsburg's two-man police department, threatened last year with disbandment, signed its first labor contract, which gives the officers more money, vacation and benefits.

The contract talks, which were heated at times according to Borough Council President David Washabaugh, were headed for arbitration until an agreement was hammered out at the last minute.

The arbitrator had arrived in McConnellsburg Feb. 6 for a meeting with both sides, Borough Manager Jack Fields said.

"The arbitrator and the lawyers from both sides were here," Fields said. "There was a lot of running back and forth and last-minute negotiating when they reached an agreement."

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Police chief Gary W. Long and Sgt. Douglas Thomas signed the agreement that night, Fields said.

The Borough Council signed it Tuesday night.

Long said he was glad to have the contract negotiations behind him and the department.

"Everything is back to being normal," he said Wednesday night.

According to Fields, the three-year contract calls for Long to earn $30,500 the first year with a $1,000 raise for each year of the contract. Long was making about $27,000 a year before.

Thomas was earning about $25,000. His salary goes to $30,000 plus $1,000 for each year of the contract, Fields said.

In addition, Fields said, each officer receives $50 a year for each year of service. Since both have 20 years in they will each earn an additional $1,000, he said.

The contract runs on a calendar year and is retroactive to Jan. 1, Fields said.

Vacation time jumps from three to five weeks a year for the officers, sick leave goes to 12 days with a total accumulation to 1,200 hours.

The borough will pay for a $50,000 life insurance policy for each officer and pay health insurance premiums for them and their families, Fields said.

The officers have agreed to work more nighttime hours on weekends, he said.

"I'm glad it's over," Washabaugh said. "It's been a learning experience for all of us. This was big potatoes for a small town like this. Negotiations were fair even if tempers rose occasionally. Hopefully we've satisfied the police officers and the taxpayers."

Washabaugh said the council passed a 2-mill tax hike last year to cover the additional costs of the contract along with expected higher costs for snow removal this winter.

Long and Thomas notified the council in September they were seeking collective bargaining rights with the borough.

Their initial demands included a 26 percent pay raise, prompting the council to call for the disbandment of the police department on Dec. 31.

Troopers from the Pennsylvania State Police barrack in McConnellsburg, which covers the borough when the local officers are off duty, were to cover the borough full time.

News of the council's intentions drew protest from hundreds of local residents. Nearly 200 showed their support for the police department at a public hearing Sept. 25.

Long said he was impressed with the public's support of the department.

"I was very proud of our citizens for the way they stood up for the police department," he said.

"I am very honored to serve them," he said.

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