Blairsville council OKs wage hikes in new police contract
By Jeff Himler
Published: Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
Blairsville's part-time police officers will see their base wage increase by nearly 26 percent over the five-year duration of a new labor agreement approved by borough council.
The borough force's two full-time officers will receive raises totaling nearly 14 percent over the same period while also beginning to make contributions to the cost of their health benefits.
The labor agreement was unanimously ratified by council President John Bertolino and fellow members Ron Evanko, James Mollo and Jeff Marshall at a special Oct. 24 meeting. Carolyn Smith and Mary Ugoletti were absent. The contract was approved earlier by the police bargaining unit, which is now represented by the Teamsters and includes six part-time officers.
Bertolino and borough manager Tim Evans both described the new agreement as a fair one for both the borough and its officers.
“I think it's definitely a fair contract,” said Bertolino. “We're happy with it.”
A previous contract expired at the end of 2011, with officers continuing to work under its terms until the new pact was settled.
Under the new agreement, hourly wages were frozen at existing levels for 2012 — at $17 for full-time officers and at $10.22 for part-timers — with increases beginning in 2013 and continuing through 2016.
For part-time officers, the largest pay hikes occur in the second and final years of the contract, representing respective increases of 10 percent and nearly 6 percent. The hourly base pay increases to $11.25 for the current year, $11.75 in 2014, $12.15 in 2015 and $12.85 in 2016.
According to Evans, newly hired part-time officers receive 90 percent of the base wage until they have completed a probationary period of 1,040 hours of service — the equivalent of six months of employment if they were working a full-time schedule.
He noted newly hired full-time officers don't receive their full base pay until their fourth year of service. That pay level is increasing by 5 percent in the second year of the contract and by a little more than 5.5 percent in the fourth year.
The full-time hourly wages have been set at $17.85 for the current year, $18 in 2014, $19 in 2015 and $19.35 in 2016.
Vacation and holiday benefits for full-time officers will remain unchanged from the previous contract, and they will continue to receive the same coverage as in the past under a UPMC health plan.
But, beginning this year, the officers will pay an increasing percentage of the cost of the health plan — 2 percent in 2013, 4 percent in 2014, 6 percent in 2015 and 8 percent in 2016.
Though his wages are set under a separate contract, Police Chief Michael Allman will receive the same health benefits as the two full-time officers, Evans noted.
After finally concluding contract talks with the police officers, the borough now faces negotiations with its non-uniform employees, whose existing labor agreement expires in December.
The non-uniform bargaining unit consists of 13 employees including six who are leased part of the time to the Blairsville Municipal Authority.
Borough officials met in executive session to review the new police contract.
Before entering the closed-door session, they briefly discussed a request by a borough resident to bring a pot-bellied pig into her home as a pet. Originating in Asia, the animals are distinct from the hogs that are raised as livestock by farmers.
According to Evans, the prospective owner claimed the pig would be kept in her house and would be trained similarly to a pet dog.
To allow the unusual pet, Evans said council likely would have to revise a 1962 ordinance that prohibits pigs in the borough but does not list specifics.
Evanko expressed concern that residents could seek to claim other animals usual associated with the barnyard as residential pets. “People are going to come in with a pet goat and a pet chicken,” he said.
It was suggested that the ordinance could be worded to prohibit pigs from being kept outdoors.
“You have to have a limit on it,” Bertolino said.
Evans suggested that he and Solicitor Bob Bell research potential revisions to the ordinance.
“We'll root into it,” Bell quipped.
Jeff Himler is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2910 or email@example.com.
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