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New Kensington, police department reach agreement

New Kensington's police officers have a new contract that will grant them 3 percent raises this year and next.

The 3-year contract is retroactive to the beginning of 2010 and covers the department's 22 officers through 2012.

Mayor Tom Guzzo said officers agreed to a wage freeze for 2010, as they had in 2009.

The starting salary for a new patrol officer will climb from $41,100 to $43,600 by the end of the contract.

The first-year salary represents 70 percent of the salary of a patrol officer with more than four years of service. A full patrol officer will earn $62,300 at the end of the 2012, up from $58,800 last year.

At the top of the pay scale, lieutenants, detective sergeants and juvenile sergeants will earn $65,500 next year, up from $61,800 last year.

The new contract maintains the same health insurance contributions. The city will cover benefits at their current cost, but employees must kick in 15 percent of any increase to the premium.

Guzzo said the city has not had health insurance increases since the provision was added in 2008; he did not know if the cost would jump next year.

Other major changes to the contract included reducing the number of sick days from 2 12 days per month to 2 and reducing the amount of automatic overtime hours for district court appearances from 4 hours to 3, Guzzo said.

Sgt. Russ Baker, who led negotiations for the officers, said they were pleased with two other changes, both of which come at no cost to the city:

• Giving officers the opportunity to buy additional health-care benefits at the officers' expense. He said this especially will help younger officers with families who desire expanded coverage.

• Creating a DROP (deferred retirement option pension) opportunity that allows officers approaching retirement to funnel money into a savings plan.

"We thought we got a fair contract," Baker said. "The mayor's been very fair to us."

Guzzo praised the officers for their efforts to reach a deal amicably.

"There was give and take on both sides," Guzzo said.

He said the delay in approving the contract was due largely to turnover in members on both sides of the negotiating committee.

Council unanimously approved the contract this week. Councilman John Regoli noted the two sides reached an agreement without involving labor attorneys, which saved the city money.

Chief Ron Zellers said he was not involved in the negotiations. His position is not covered by the contract

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