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Westmoreland

Jeannette's 12-member police force gets new contract with 3.5% pay raise

Renatta Signorini
| Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017, 11:48 a.m.

Jeannette police have a new four-year contract that includes a 3.5 percent annual pay increase for current officers and a significant drop in the base wage for future hires.

Current officers will contribute more to their health care costs — from 10 percent in the previous agreement to 15 percent — while the starting base wage for new officers dropped to $50,000 in the new agreement from $62,000 in 2016.

City manager Michael Nestico called the rollback a “major economic benefit.”

“It's going to control your wage and payroll costs. It's going to allow you to reduce your pension liabilities,” he said. “An award like this is a short-term benefit to the current officers, but it's a long-term benefit to the city as a whole.”

But Lt. Rich O'Neal is concerned that the rollback may affect the quality of future applicants. He had helped negotiate with the Jeannette Police Officers' Benefit Association and called the rollbacks a “major hit.”

“I hope the city's aware what they're doing,” O'Neal said. “It's hard enough to attract quality applicants because of the reputation Jeannette has.”

An arbitrator awarded the new contract that is retroactive to Jan. 1. The previous four-year collective bargaining agreement expired Dec. 31 and months of negotiations between city officials and the officers' union failed to reach an agreement . The department has 12 officers.

Future hires will make 80 percent of the $50,000 base wage during their first year of employment, followed by 85 percent in the second year, 90 percent in the third year and 95 percent in the fourth year. After the fifth year of employment, the officer will make the full base wage amount, according to the contract.

Other changes in the contract include:

• Police officers can live within 10 air miles of city hall. Previously, new hires were required to live in the city and other officers could live outside of the city if they forfeited 1 percent of their salary.

• New hires will be responsible for their own health care after retirement. Previously, new hires would be included under the city's health care policy until reaching Medicare age eligibility.

The city has paid attorney Richard Miller $28,000 for work with the arbitration, which was decided by a neutral attorney who took both sides' positions into consideration when completing the contract.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-837-5374, rsignorini@tribweb.com or via Twitter @byrenatta.

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