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Contract close for Mon City police force

| Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A tentative contract deal for the Monongahela police has been reached and should receive final approval once city council OKs an innovative retirement option.

The five-year pact would replace the current contract, which is set to expire at year's end.

The 14-member police union is represented by Teamsters Local 205.

The contract would include annual 2 percent raises, but the officers would contribute 3 percent toward their pensions.

City council is expected to vote on the contract upon approval of a Deferred Retirement Option Pension.

Officers opting into DROP announce their intention to retire within five years of the date. Their pensions are frozen at that time, with future contributions going to a parallel DROP account, Solicitor Keith Bassi explained Wednesday at a city council meeting.

That parallel account would create a lump sum “bonus” that each officer would receive at retirement.

Officers must be at least 55 years-old and have at least 20 years of service to be eligible for the program.

Membership in DROP also confirms retirement dates, which allows city officials to make personnel plans in advance.

A first reading took place Wednesday for the ordinance that would enact DROP.

Council is expected to vote on the ordinance in October.

During the public forum, Monongahela Area Library Board member Matti Gruzs thanked council for continued fiscal support for the library.

“You guys are awesome,” Gruzs said. “That library is the heart of this community.”

Gruzs said she will petition the Ringgold School Board to support the library, which serves most school district communities.

She said state funding has dwindled in recent years. The library survives on endowments, gifts and monthly fundraisers such as the sale of tickets, gift baskets and books.

Councilman Bill Hess, a member of the Mid-Mon Valley Shipmates, said his organization has asked families to make memorial contributions to the library.

Meanwhile, resident Linda Dudzik commended Councilwoman Claudia Williams, a member of Aquatorium Innovations, for a successful summer concert series at the Noble J. Dick Aquatorium.

Williams deflected credit to the volunteers who worked at each of the dozen concerts from June through August. Williams said the concert series was a success despite a wet summer.

Council voted to advertise for the sale of the Chess Street Garage – over the objections of Councilman Tom Caudill.

Caudill said the garage was a gift to the city from Rite Aid when the company built a new store in Monongahela and moved uptown.

Caudill said it is strategically located.

But Councilman Ken Kulak said the building needs many costly repairs.

He said the former city garage can be used, now that a new city garage has opened. The building will be used to store police evidence and street department equipment, for example, just as the Chess Street garage was.

In other business, council:

• Agreed to apply for a Local Share Account grant for repairs to city sewerage lines.

• Learned from police Chief Brian Tempest that city officers are aware of increased drug activity related to pain killers and are seeking assistance from outside law enforcement agencies to investigate such crimes.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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