McKeesport police, UPMC reach new pact
By Jennifer R. Vertullo
Published: Wednesday, July 10, 2013, 4:51 a.m.
McKeesport Police Department is entering into a contract for an around-the-clock presence at the city's hospital.
Council on Monday authorized city administrators to execute a five-year agreement with UPMC McKeesport at an annual rate of $425,000 with 3 percent increases over a minimum of three years. McKeesport police would be on-site 24 hours a day, seven days per week.
“I think it's a great opportunity to continue our community partnership with UPMC,” Mayor Michael Cherepko said. “It's important for the residents to know that we meet on a regular basis with UPMC. We recognize the importance of having them as the largest employer in our city, and we look forward to working with them on a whole new level with this (agreement).”
Council president Darryl Segina said the UPMC McKeesport agreement is one local example of contracts being established at all UPMC facilities with various police departments.
“I don't want people to think that McKeesport is pinpointed for this type of service,” Segina said.
District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.'s office has been working with UPMC's leadership to develop increased security and safety plans for the corporation's hospitals and medical centers.
“It's all of UPMC,” Cherepko explained. “The district attorney came out a few months back with (security concerns) in light of some of the incidents that were happening in some of the hospitals.”
UPMC McKeesport administrators said they are looking forward to a new type of partnership with the city, but deferred comment on the agreement to corporate offices in Pittsburgh. Director of Media Relations Gloria Kreps confirmed the UPMC McKeesport contract with local police, but had no further details on the agreement at presstime.
In other police business, council approved the addition of a Deferred Retirement Option Program, commonly called a DROP, to the city's existing contract with McKeesport police, represented by Teamsters Local 205.
The contract, which runs from 2010-2014, includes a provision giving the union and administration authority to revisit the DROP during the current contract period.
Carl Bailey Jr., secretary/treasurer for Teamsters Local 205, said the DROP has potential to benefit the city as well as its officers.
“It's good for the city, because officers may decide to stay around longer,” Bailey said. “It's good for the officers, because their pension (earnings) go into an escrow account. Then they have a (lump sum) set aside for their retirement.”
Formal talks began in December. The agreement was finalized one month after a similar plan with city firefighters was approved.
While the firefighters qualify for their DROP at age 54, the police will qualify at 50.
Because the DROP-eligible age matches each department's average age of retirement, the option will not present an additional cost to the city, Cherepko said. Furthermore, it will not throw the city's pension obligation off schedule because staff will continue to pay into the pension fund for the maximum three years that they can defer their pension collection into escrow.
“If the DROP were to lower the retirement age of our police officers, we would have to re-do the actuarial assumption. We would have paid in a lesser amount of money than we should have for all of these people who have worked 20-some years,” Solicitor J. Jason Elash explained. “As long as you set that age equal to the age of assumed actuarial retirement, there is no way the DROP can cost you more money.”
Cherepko said the police DROP will have the opposite effect.
“We have several officers, who when they first graduated high school, they went right into the academy,” he said. “We have a half-dozen who would be able to retire at 42 or 43 years old and start hitting that pension (fund) right away, which would hurt the pension overall. We're hoping this lets them ... stick around to that age of 50.”
Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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