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Both sides like New Kensington police contract

| Thursday, May 16, 2013, 1:31 a.m.

New Kensington police have a new three-year contract that will offer them annual raises of about 2 percent.

Council earlier this month unanimously approved the contract, which is retroactive to the beginning of this year. It will expire at the end of 2015.

“It's a very equitable contract,” said Mayor Tom Guzzo.

Patrolman James Horwatt, who led negotiations for the police union, agreed: “It's absolutely fair to both parties. I give the mayor credit because the negotiations were professional, straightforward and civil.”

Including Christian Baker, the newest officer whom council offered conditional employment to this month, the contract covers 23 full-time officers. The union contract does not cover Chief Tom Klawinski.

The last three-year police contract, which wasn't ratified until nearly the end of 2011 and was retroactive to the beginning of 2010, included a wage freeze in the first year and annual raises of about 3 percent in the last two years.

“We understood the budget constraints of the city,” Horwatt said. “I think this is extremely fair.”

Health benefits will remain the same for now: the city will cover the cost unless insurance premiums increase by more than 15 percent a year, at which point employees will be required to kick in.

Guzzo and Horwatt said the union has agreed to review alternative health plans in the future to see if there are more cost-effective options, including perhaps a high-deductible plan. Guzzo said the city likely will bring in insurance representatives to discuss options with all three of the city's unions.

“We're very satisfied,” said Horwatt, a 20-year veteran of the department who has been involved with contract negotiations before. “This was the smoothest of all the negotiations I've been a part of.”

“I know the guys are happy,” Klawinski said.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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