Rocky Fork Enterprise

Reviewing finances

Council delays police contract vote

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Gahanna City Council has postponed action on labor agreements between the city and Fraternal Order of Police, Capital City Lodge 9 and Patrolmen's Benevolent Association Dispatcher Unit until Aug. 5.

Councilman Brian Larick said during the May 20 council meeting that as much as he would like to support the contracts, he needs to examine the city's long-term plan to see if the contracts are feasible in the long run. He suggested that council postpone the legislation to allow for time to make a more informed decision.

Council agreed to postpone the legislation, with council member Karen Angelou dissenting.

"Two labor-negotiated contracts have been ratified by employees," she said. "During the negotiation process, the team negotiating this was working in good faith."

She said she objects to delaying the decision based on failure of the May 7 proposed income-tax rate increase.

"Our finances haven't changed," Angelou said. "It was negotiated; it could be handled. It's the wrong message to send to folks in safety services."

Larick said he wants to support the contracts.

"I strongly need to have a clear picture of the finances," he said.

As proposed, the contracts would cost $926,104 over the life of the three-year bargaining agreement for 55 positions.

Human-resources director Sue Wadley told ThisWeek the police department currently budgets for 55 positions. The contracts cover police officers, sergeants and lieutenants, as well as school resource officers, detectives and patrol units.

The contract would provide a 2.5-percent wage increase in 2013, a 2.67-percent increase in 2014 and a 2.87-percent increase in 2015.

"The intent of the management bargaining team was to keep the increases below 3 percent in any given year," Wadley said. "Wages are negotiated by reviewing comparables of like municipalities. Gahanna's pay philosophy is to pay at market: a competitive salary to what an employee could get somewhere else."

Other areas negotiated in the contract were health insurance, shift differential and service credit.

The insurance negotiations process included a comprehensive wellness program, Wadley said.

Members who are enrolled in the city of Gahanna's medical health plan would be eligible to participate in the wellness program, which includes biometrics screenings, education and proactive health coaching.

"Wellness programs create awareness and drive lifestyle behavior changes, which reduces future medical plan cost and absenteeism and increases productivity," Wadley said. "The return on investment in the wellness program is projected to save approximately $4,000 per person in medical claims, which in turn reduces the city's medical health-plan cost."

Bob Sauter, an FOP attorney, represented the negotiating team for Capital City Lodge 9.

"This was a contract that expired Dec. 31, 2012," he said. "We started negotiating in late 2012 and continued through the spring of this year in Gahanna. It's a pretty complete contract. When contracts come up for renewal and reopening, both sides bring proposals and have a fair amount of discussion. The negotiations aren't easy."

Sauter said the contracts represented two bargaining units -- the dispatchers unit and uniformed ranks (supervisors).

"Both units ratified the contract by substantial margins," he said. "The vote showed it's a fair contract for the difficult work law-enforcement officers do in Gahanna."

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