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Kittanning council approves police chief contract

| Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 12:11 a.m.

KITTANNING — Details of a contract agreement for Kittanning's chief of police were ironed out in an executive session before Monday's meeting and were approved at the meeting by council in a unanimous 7-0 vote.

Council members Mike Rosenberger, Betsy Wilt, Joie Pryde, Ange Turco, Kim Fox, Andy Peters and council president Chris Schiano voted in favor of accepting police Chief Bruce Mathews' four-year employment agreement.

Councilman Richard Reedy was absent.

According to the contract agreement, dated Sept. 9, Mathews' contract extends from May 6, 2013, through Dec. 31, 2017.

It stipulates that “The Borough shall pay Mathews a base annual salary which shall be 125 percent of the base annual salary of a patrolman under the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the police patrolmen and the Borough as the same may, from time to time, be renewed, replaced, modified, supplemented, amended or changed by agreement or arbitration award.”

At 125 percent of the base annual patrolman salary (around $50,000), Mathews will earn an annual salary of around $65,000 for a 40-hour work week — without any added perks and without being paid overtime for many community venues and meetings.

He is also required to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Critics in past meetings, who opposed council's April decision to appoint a police chief, cited financial constraints as a reason not to hire Mathews.

Kittanning Mayor Kirk Atwood opposed the move and had urged council to instead maintain an officer-in-charge position at the police station.

On Tuesday, Atwood recalled that there had been a balance of between $20,000 and $25,000 remaining in the police fund for 2013 for the position vacated on April 1 by former Chief Ed Cassesse.

Atwood said Tuesday that he did not take issue with the job Mathews was doing: “He's doing a fine job.”

However, Atwood said he does take issue with the way council reversed its decision in December 2012 to eliminate the position of police chief.

When council adopted the 2013 budget, it did so with the intention of eliminating the position of police chief once outgoing Chief Ed Cassesse retired April 1, 2013. That savings would help keep real estate taxes at the 2012 rate of 27.5 mills

Atwood said on Tuesday it was his understanding Mathews was to receive his regular salary for a one-year probationary period. He said council ignored that plan, and he called it a “blanket disregard for taxpayers.”

Mathews said the negative speculation has been frustrating, especially considering that his contract agreement is a bargain for the borough.

He said his salary as a senior patrolman had been around $62,000, which carried over to his new position and was budgeted for in 2013. So if there is a shortfall in the budget as a result of his new contract, it amounts to no more than $3,000, he said.

“My salary is a savings,” he said, adding that there will be minimal overtime hours for him.

“I gave up those perks,” he said, because of the borough's financial constraints.

“I'm not nickel and diming. I'm in there earlier and sometimes leave later —that's all straight time. This isn't an 8 to 5 job,” he said.

According to the agreement, Mathews will be paid 1½ times his base hourly rate in overtime if he has to fill in for patrol duty.

But as a supervisor, it will be his job to find someone else to fill that position before he would have to take it, he said.

“My job is to minimize that heavy overtime,” he said.

His contract stipulates that he will not be entitled to overtime pay for attending and coordinating various events and meetings, including council meetings, Crime Watch meetings and safety events.

“It was a really good deal for the borough,” Schiano said Tuesday concerning the agreement.

He noted that in the past, former police chiefs turned in expenses for additional costs, including those associated with cell phone use.

Pryde said on Tuesday that Mathews does not charge overtime for many of the things former police chiefs did.

“He comes in early and stays late,” she said. “He's doing an amazing job.”

So far, it appears as if council has stayed within budget with August figures showing a balance of $1,167,641.88 remaining in the general fund. Of that amount, $245,645.78 is allocated for the police fund.

Schiano said on Tuesday that council will discuss next year's budget in the coming weeks and will soon open labor agreement discussions for borough police and street workers.

Pryde, who is chairwoman of the borough's finance committee, said that next year's budget forecast looks promising.

“I think we can do a real balanced budget again,” she said.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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