Munroe Falls Council approves police contracts

Laura Freeman
Kent Weeklies
Munroe Falls police contracts approved for three years

MUNROE FALLS — City Council has approved the city’s contracts with its three police unions that reflect the city employees' pay increases.

Each deal provides no pay increase for 2020 because of issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. A 1.5% pay increase begins Jan. 1, 2021 and a 2% pay increase begins Jan. 1, 2022.

City workers did not receive raises this year and that freed up money in the budget to keep everyone employed, said Mayor James Armstrong.

“We don’t have any non-essential employees in the city,” Armstrong said. “We are working at the level necessary to provide the services needed to our citizens.”

In a 5 to 1 vote with council member Frank Larson dissenting, council approved contracts with the union representing full-time police sergeants, the union representing full-time patrol officers, and the union representing part-time sergeants and part-time patrol officers.

Larson said he did not have much of an opportunity to read the contracts and a month earlier the city wanted to pass the contracts without seeing it so he voted “no.”

“I don’t feel the contract[s] is the best for the city,” Larson said, “I had to make an appointment to come in and read it. We weren’t given a copy of the contract[s] before the vote.”

All three contracts expired June 30, 2020, but the new contracts were similar to those approved in 2017. They covered sick time, vacation, holiday and other time off. The contract included fitness tests, substance abuse testing, uniform allowance, the officers paying 15% toward medical insurance and the ability to purchase a service weapon for $1 after 10 years of service.

The police unions were part of the solution to avoid layoffs, Armstrong said. If the police officers had received increases in salaries, the city would have had to look at cuts.

“By not giving a pay raise this year, we didn’t have to lay anyone off,” Armstrong said. “I’m pleased they wanted to assist us in the total operations of the city and not just looking at their own department.”

The new budget begins in January and last year the city put in pay increases of 1.5% and 2% for city employees but waited for negotiations with the police.

“We wanted pay raises [for city employees] to be the same as police,” Armstrong said. “Those didn’t get implemented in January and then COVID hit and we were unknown about finances.”

A statement about COVID was added to the police contract so future negotiators would know why there was no increase in pay in 2020, he said.

“The police recognized the economics and financial problems because of the pandemic,” Armstrong said. “It speaks highly of them to be helpful in finding a solution for the operations of the city.”

Chief Police Chief Jerry Hughes said he is content with the contracts with the budgetary issues and COVID-19.

“It was a good compromise on both sides,” Hughes said. “There is always someone who is not happy, but it was nice to see it work out with give and take on both sides. It speaks well on both sides that we negotiated something everyone could live with.”

Hughes, who came to Munroe Falls four years ago, has said he had concerns about the police department, especially with officers working alone on a shift.

“In this day and age you can’t have that so we worked on staffing and made improvements,” Hughes said.

There are 16 officers including the chief; one full-time sergeant; five full-time officers; three part-time sergeants; and six part-time officers.

“The numbers are better and in the future we could go with more, especially with full- time supervision,” Hughes said.

Gannett reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at lfreeman@recordpub.com