City approves employee contracts

August 02, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN - The city agreed to three-year contracts with its four employee bargaining units Tuesday, incorporating most of a consultant's recommendation to increase wages.

While some hailed the multiyear contracts as historic, none received the Hagerstown City Council's full support. The council voted 3-2 to approve three contracts and 4-1 to approve the fourth.

Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire voted no all four times. Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer voted yes to the police officers' contract, but no to the others.

One-year contracts for all four bargaining units - police officers, firefighters, electrical workers and a group including water, sewer, public works and parks employees - expired June 30. The new contracts are retroactive to July 3.


Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said this year's negotiations were more harmonious than sessions of the past.

"This is indeed a historical moment to have four unions sit down and sign a contract," A.G. "Bobby" Fouche, a past president of the Central Maryland AFL-CIO Council and former city councilman, said after the votes.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said three-year contracts will prevent the city council from scrambling to prepare future budgets because of contract talks.

But, Aleshire said the city hasn't planned how to fund the next two years of the wage study's recommendations, other than raising property taxes, which he did not support this year.

Also, he and Cromer have alleged that the study inappropriately compared Hagerstown to dissimilar communities for wages and standards of living.

In June, the council voted 3-2 to approve a three-year wage restructuring plan for city employees, which has been estimated to cost $5 million if fully funded. The city had hired Springsted Inc. to study and compare wages.

James Bestpitch of Council 67 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents two city locals, said the new contracts include roughly 90 percent of the wage increases that Springsted recommended.

In the new police contract, the starting salary for a first-year officer will start at $35,630. It will increase to $36,712 the second year and $37,794 the third year, annual increases of about 3 percent.

In the just-expired contract, the starting salary was $33,530, meaning it went up more than 6 percent in the first year of the new contract.

Still, city police salaries are behind Washington County's, said Wayne Hose, the president of the Hagerstown police bargaining unit.

For the first time, city employees are paying 3 percent toward their individual health-care premiums, said Donna Messina, the city's human resources director. The city had paid 100 percent for individuals and 50 percent for families and dependents, she said.

How they voted

The Hagerstown City Council approved three-year contracts for four bargaining units on Tuesday: firefighters, police officers, electrical workers and a group that includes water and sewer, public works and parks employees.

Council members Kelly S. Cromer, Lewis C. Metzner, Penny M. Nigh and Alesia D. Parson-McBean voted in favor of the police officers' contract. Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire voted no.

For the three other contracts, Metzner, Nigh and Parson-McBean voted yes. Cromer and Aleshire voted no.

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