Council President Kim Fox’s swing of the gavel Monday night may have ended the Borough’s long police contract negotiations. Union members must now vote to ratify the agreement.
by Jonathan Weaver
For the past five months, Kittanning Borough Police officers have operated under previous contract terms, but that could all change relatively-soon.
After an executive session last night, Kittanning Borough Council agreed to a tentative four-year contract to keep full-time officers patrolling Borough streets.
A majority of Council voted in-favor, but First Ward Councilman David Croyle was in opposition.
In a written statement, Council President Kim Fox said police officers were “very cognizant of the financial limitations of the borough” with regards to wage increases, overtime costs and benefits.
While officers are to receive a two percent wage increase, overtime costs are proposed to be reduced by both employed, retired, and part-time officers to part-time rates and cost-sharing of benefits is to occur with the hopes of saving more in benefit costs.
“Overall, we are pleased with the manner in which police negotiations were conducted and completed – with patience, respect and an understanding of our community’s financial challenges,” Fox wrote.
Croyle explained his dissenting vote.
“I could not vote for it because there were no dollar figures associated with the proposed talking points in the contract – and without knowing the dollar amount, and having no comparison information, I couldn’t make an intelligent decision,” he said.
Croyle said the contract was negotiated by Fox, and council members Chris Schiano and Dr. Jerry Shuster.
Police Bargaining Unit Committee member Officer Pete Harmon hoped to receive notification from Council President Fox today in order to proceed with a union vote.
Officer Harmon withheld further comment until terms and conditions are finalized.
In February, Kittanning Borough latest police hire – Officer Kyle Lewis – completed his one-year probationary period and was sworn in to the county’s Drug Task Force.
Lewis, a former part-time officer in Apollo Borough, was hired to help minimize overtime costs and act as a “floater” in case of emergency call-offs or vacation.
Council reopened their 2016 calendar year budget in January in part because of the negotiations, but the $2.6 million budget stood after a lack of quorum during a special February meeting before the State deadline.
Finance Committee Chair Wilbur Stitt and Council President Fox agreed in January that any budget changes cannot be had until wage negotiations continue with union officials.
“It’s concerning because we can’t put concrete numbers in until these contracts are settled,” Fox said in January. “There are some things I think we need to go in and tweak but it’s a pretty tight budget.”
Labor attorney firm Steele-Schneider from Pittsburgh was hired to represent Kittanning Borough in October.
Police Chief Bruce Mathews was not briefed while contract negotiations were ongoing.
Croyle said talks with the union representing the street workers are continuing, but have not reached any agreement.