By Andrea Cordle
“A lot of sweat went into these contract negotiations,” said Grove City Mayor Richard “Ike” Stage of the deal between the city and the Fraternal Order of Police, City Lodge #9.
At the May 2 meeting, Grove City council unanimously approved the deal, even though a council member did not support one aspect of the contract.
At first, councilman Ted Berry said he would not support the contract because it includes an increase in the member’s insurance contributions from 10 percent to 15 percent. The increase in insurance contributions will go into effect in January 2018.
Berry wanted to keep the insurance contributions from safety service employees at 10 percent.
“I do not want to increase the insurance costs for the people who serve us and keep us safe,” said Berry.
Jeff Simpson, vice president of the FOP and the liaison for its Grove City membership, said the union settled for the insurance increase and approved the contract by well more than half its voting members.
“We got a fair deal. The right thing to do is honor it,” said Simpson when Berry said he did not want to support the deal.
According to William Vedra, safety director for the city of Grove City, there are 10 agencies in Franklin County that require more than a 15 percent insurance contribution from its police employees.
Berry agreed to support the contract, but voiced concern over another aspect. He also said the Grove City Division of Police should look into expanding and adding officers to the force.
“We need to look at the number of Grove City officers on the streets,” said Berry. “Third shift is too light.”
The councilman suggested adding two more officers this year.
The ordinance to approve the FOP contract included an appropriation of $176,165 for the increased costs – a 2.75 percent wage increase. About $148,000 will come from the general fund while $28,000 will come from the police pension fund.
Beginning this year, a police officer in his/her probationary period will make $49,946 a year.
The officer goes through steps and each step is a salary increase. The final step – step 5, officers will make $87,283 annually.
According to Vedra, it typically takes an officer five to six years to achieve a step 5 rate of pay.
The contract states that in 2016, a sergeant will make $100,598 a year and a lieutenant will earn $113,357 a year.
In 2017, a probationary officer will make $51,319 annually and a step 5 rank will earn $89,683 a year. A sergeant will make $103,364 and a lieutenant will make $116,474.
In 2018, a probationary officer will earn $52,731 a year and a step 5 rank will get just over $92,000 per year. A sergeant will make $106,206 a year and a lieutenant will receive $119,677 in pay.
The average officer in Franklin County earns $65,000 per year. The average officer in Grove City earns $68,000 annually, according to Simpson.
According to Vedra, the city’s police department decided to reorganize its positions and add a lieutenant position, but drop a captain title.
The contract also agrees to provide $4,500 in tuition reimbursement per employee. It also added random drug testing.
The previous FOP contract expired at the end of 2015. This approved contract is retroactive.
In other news, council discussed the first reading of an ordinance to purchase part of the property at 3985 Broadway for $100,000.
The city plans to use this property to help construct a pedestrian promenade that would allow foot traffic from residential development behind City Hall to the new library.
In November of last year, council voted to maintain a pedestrian promenade as part of the improvements to the Town Center.
This parcel of property on Broadway is needed for the walkway, but some council members feel the price is too high.
“The price is too much for the size of this property,” said councilman Jeff Davis. “Is this what we want to pay?”
The property in question is 0.029 acres west of Broadway and north of Grove City Road.
The second reading and public hearing on the property purchase will take place at the next council meeting, at 7 p.m. May 16 at City Hall.