MUNROE FALLS — A lengthy and, at times, tense City Council meeting concluded Tuesday night with the legislative body voting 5-1 to approve the city’s contracts with its three police unions.
Council approved pacts with the union representing full-time police sergeants, the union representing full-time patrol officers, and the union representing the part-time sergeants and part-time patrol officers.
Council Member Mike Barnes voted against all three contracts. Council President Steve Stahl was absent.
All three contracts have a start date of July 1, 2017, and an end date of June 30, 2020.
Each deal provides a 2 percent pay increase retroactive to Jan. 1, 2017, a 1.5 percent pay hike starting with the first payroll beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2018, a 1.75 percent increase with the first payroll starting on or after July 1, 2018, and a 2.5 percent increase with the first payroll starting on or after Jan. 1, 2019.
While noting he favored the increase in pay, Barnes said he objected to the contract because it continued a practice of allowing nearly all full-time patrol officers and both full-time sergeants to work only on weekdays. He added he also objected to giving officers a $300 signing bonus, increasing the uniform allowance and giving officers a bonus for passing a physical fitness test, but no penalty for not passing it. Barnes also said part-time officer costs will rise. This is due to three part-time officers being promoted to sergeant to provide supervision on the weekends.
"I do not see how the citizens get the benefit," said Barnes. "I think we got the short end of the stick."
Council Member Chris Ritzinger said signing bonuses are common in other police departments and noted that some places only have voluntary physical fitness standards.
"I think we have a bargain in our city," said Ritzinger. "I thank the officers for continuing that bargain."
About 30 residents attended the meeting and several voiced concerns about moving the part-time officers into sergeants. They noted that city officials said the police levy approved in May was intended to be used to hire full-time officers.
Police Chief Jerry Hughes said shifting the three part-time officers into sergeants’ roles was designed to address concerns about officers working without a supervisor on the weekends. Those sergeants will work only on the weekends. Additionally, Hughes said another aspect of the deals is that newly hired full-time officers will be required to work on the weekend. As an example, he said a part-time officer promoted to a full-time role in late September works on the weekend. The chief also said he plans to hire two full-time officers in 2018 and both of those hires will be required to work on the weekend, too.