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RTM Grudgingly Approves Police Contract

Four Year Deal Gives Annual Raises Of At Least 2.25 Percent

How can nobody like a contract, but yet nearly everybody votes for it?

The Representative Town Meeting voted Monday night  11-5 to approve a four-year police contract, with raises of at least 2 ¼ percent every year.

“The sad fact is, as much as I don’t like this contract, I might have to swallow hard and accept this,” RTM member Paul Goldstein said, echoing many of his fellow members' sentiments.

If the contract was rejected, it would have to go back to negotiations, First Selectman Dan Steward said. That would likely cost at least $50,000 in legal fees, he said.

Then, if no agreement were to be reached, the town would have to go to either mediation or arbitration. In either case, the judge would look at Waterford’s ability to pay, which is strong, Steward said.

Waterford currently has more than $9 million in its general fund, around 13 percent compared to its annual budget, Steward said. That is much higher than most towns, whose general funds are about 5 percent to 8 percent of their annual budget, Steward said.

“That is good for bond ratings, but bad for arbitrators,” Steward said.

So, because there really was no other choice, approving this budget is the best option, Steward said. And many RTM members, despite being angry with the numbers, agreed.

“It is nothing I am happy with; it is not something I am comfortable with,” Steward said. “But it is the best we are going to get.”

The Debate Against

Despite the first selectman’s warnings, several RTM members rejected the contract. Some didn’t like the fact that there was not random drug testing, others complained about the amount of sick time, while still others said it set the wrong precedent.

“This sets precedents for all other unions negotiations in the future,” RTM member Theodore Olynciw said. “Every other union that comes before us is going to say, 'the police got a raise; where is ours?' ”

RTM member Michael Cannamela agreed, saying it sent the wrong message while the school district is asking the teachers union for a wage freeze.

“We are asking the teachers to freeze their salaries, while we talking about raising (the police union's),” he said. “I’ve got a real problem with that.”

A 15-year veteran on the force gets 20 vacation days a year, along with additional holiday days and personal days, Olynciw said. That is just too much, he said.

“Nobody in this room has that package,” Olynciw said. “I’d love to have that package.”

The Debate In Favor

Meanwhile, other RTM members applauded the contract, calling it fair in the economic times.

Gerard Gaynor, a former police officer, said the raises were deserved.

“We are talking about a job where you have to worry about getting shot every night,” he said. “I think a cost of living increase is fair.”

Sharon Palmer, the moderator of the RTM, also lauded the contract. Recently, Lawrence & Memorial Hospital employees, AT&T employees and Electric Boat employees all received 3 percent raises, she said.

“I respect the collective bargaining process -- always have, always will,” Palmer said. “And this is a fair contract in these times.”

John Bunce, head of the police union, agreed. The contract was much less than the last one the union signed, where raises were 3.5 percent annually. He emphasized that the job of police officer is a dangerous one.

“We put our lives on the line every day for this town,” he said. “When you push the button, when you call 9-1-1, we come, no matter what raise we get.”

John Sheehan February 08, 2011 at 04:29 PM
Besides the Police Contract, last night the RTM also approved an appropriation of $255,000 from the Road Reclamation/Overlay line of the Capital and Non Recurring Expenditure Fund to restore the portion of Bloomingdale Road between Applewood Drive and Quaker Hill School. During the discussion, Public Works Director Ron Cusano stated that the part of Bloomingdale Road from Gallows Lane to Applewood Drive was in the plan for when the Waterford Utility Commission would add water and /or sewer to that portion of Bloomingdale Road. Since adding water and/or sewer to Bloomingdale Road does not appear in the WUC plan for the next five years that part of Bloomingdale Road will not be improved for some time. In other actions the RTM reappointed Jane Coville and Patricia Collins to the Ethics Commission for terms to expire on February 4, 2013 and Louisa Miner as an alternate to the Ethics Commission for a term to expire on February 4, 2013. Richard Wells was also appointed to the Personnal Review Board for a term to expire November 30, 2013. A second appointment to the PRB was tabled for lack of a nominee.
michael satti February 08, 2011 at 05:51 PM
The Selectmen who pushed this Contract and try to rationalize it with the legal costs to arbitrate should bear resposibility and accoutability for this. who decides what the legal costs should be? They apparently lack the courage to stand up to the Unions which other Town Selectmen obviously posess.
Paul Holmes May 01, 2011 at 02:30 AM
Michael Satti, What happened when you took on the East Lyme Police Union with your dog and pony show? How did you fare standing up to the union? The town is still paying for the great service you provided.

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