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BLAIRSVILLE: Police pay increases under contract

by SAM KUSIC on October 25, 2013 11:00 AM

BLAIRSVILLE — Blairsville’s part-time police officers will see their base wages rise by close to 26 percent over the next four years under a new labor agreement with the borough.

Under the contract, base wages for part-time officers will increase from $10.22 to $12.85 per hour by 2016, the final year of the five-year agreement. Wages for full-time officers will rise from $17 to $19.35 per hour by the final year, nearly a 14 percent increase.

The deal received final approval during a special council meeting Thursday evening. Council approved the deal on a 4-0 vote. Councilwomen Mary Ugoletti and Carolyn Smith were absent.

Police officers had ratified the agreement prior to the council vote.

Officers have been working without a contract since Jan. 1, 2012, when the previous deal expired. Officers, excluding Chief Michael Allman, are represented by the Teamsters. There currently are two full-time officers and six part-time officers.

Borough manager Tim Evans, a member of the borough’s negotiating team, said that other than wages, the contract is not significantly different from the past collective bargaining agreement, except in one way: It contains a provision requiring full-time officers to contribute to their health insurance premiums.

Under the deal, full-timers will contribute 2 percent this year, and the share will rise in 2 percent increments each year after to 2016. So by then, they will be paying for 8 percent of the cost of the premium. The borough had been picking up the entire tab before the agreement. Part-time officers are not eligible for coverage through the borough.

Overall, Evans said, he believes the deal is a good one for both sides. Council President John Bertolino echoed those comments.

“It’s definitely a fair contract,” he said.

At least one officer concurred.

“I think it was an agreement that was good for both parties,” said Officer Jill Gaston, one of the borough’s two full-time officers. Gaston helped negotiate the new contract.

It took nearly two years to come to terms as negotiations had come in fits and starts. Bargaining had begun in late 2011, but then was stalled through a change in solicitors — former solicitor Patrick Dougherty stepped down to become the county’s district attorney and was succeeded by Bob Bell. As a result of the transition, the borough hired a labor negotiator in the spring of that year.

And later that year, the union, which had been unaffiliated, decided to join the Teamsters. Additionally, the borough was conducting a search for a new police chief in the midst of the bargaining.

With negotiations having concluded, the borough is now focusing its attention on another labor deal, the agreement with its pubic works employees and administrative assistants. Their contract expires at the end of this year. They are represented by the Laborers’ International Union of North America.

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