Grove City has approved a new contract with its police officers that will give them raises over the next three years.
Grove City council voted 3-0 Jan. 22 to approve the proposed contract with the Fraternal Order of Police, Capital City Lodge No. 9, the union that represents the officers of the Grove City Police Division.
Council President Ted Berry and Councilwoman Maria Klemack-McGraw were absent from the meeting. Councilman Steve Bennett served as acting chairman.
"I think our contract is very positive," said Councilwoman Melissa Albright.
Grove City police officer Chris Emmelhainz, the lodge's grievance chairman, said the agreement was a "great accomplishment."
"We were able to sit down without attorneys ... (and) we accomplished a good, fair contract," Emmelhainz said.
Under the terms of the contract, the officers will receive wage increases of 2.75 percent in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
The city also will fund a high-deductible insurance plan at 80 percent; widen the range between starting pay and top pay rates by lengthening the probationary step from nine months to one year; and increase compensatory time accrual from 45 to 81 hours but limiting it to a calendar year rather than at any one time.
The contract is projected to cost around $1 million more over the next three years compared to what the previous contract would have been during the same time.
Although he voted for the contract, saying it was fairly negotiated and built with some cost control measures, Councilman Jeff Davis said he was concerned about the rising cost of police division salaries and benefits.
"This proved a very difficult vote for me," Davis said. "You got my vote today, but I hope we're thinking about the future."
Davis also said he was concerned about the process, mainly that the contract was being voted on after council approved the city's 2013 budget.
City Law Director Stephen Smith said under state law, negotiations on the new contract could not begin more than 90 days before the end of previous contract.
"We have a very short window," he said.
Mayor Richard "Ike" Stage said the administration worked to put money into the budget that would cover the new contracts but had to be careful while negotiating.
"You don't put all your marbles on the table," he said. "We're confident there won't be any supplemental appropriations."
Council originally was scheduled to vote on the contract as emergency legislation at its meeting on Jan. 7, but members decided then to postpone the vote to allow for public comment. The ordinance to accept the contract was approved without declaring it as emergency legislation to make it immediately effective. That would have required at least four members of council to be present.