Irwin council rejects new police contract

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Irwin council has rejected a new three-year police contract that would freeze wages for full-time officers for two years, but give them help with their contributions to pensions and health insurance.

At council's voting meeting last week, President John Cassandro and members Debbie Kelly, Gail Macioce and Phyllis Thiem voted against the contract, and council members Bob Wayman, Peggie Watson and Joanna Jordan voted for it.

At the previous week's workshop, Mr. Cassandro asked that a motion be put on the voting meeting agenda to approve the contract requests of Irwin police Officer Michael Thomas, who represents the police officers' union. Mr. Cassandro read all of the requested terms of the new contract at the workshop.

There was little discussion of the proposed contract changes at either meeting.

After the workshop, Officer Thomas outlined details of the proposed new pay scale and requested changes in payments to borough officers' health care plans. The new three-year contract would begin Jan. 1.

Under terms requested by the police union in the rejected contract, full-time officers would have accepted a pay freeze of $19.55 per hour, the same as this year's wage, during the first two years of the contract.

Under the proposal, full-time patrolmen would have received $20.14 during the third year of the contract, Officer Thomas said. Part-time officers would have received $14.75 the first year of the contract, $15.75 the second year and $16.75 the third year, he said.

In the first contract proposal, Officer Thomas said he also requested that additional ranks be added to the department, such as sergeant, corporal or captain.

He said in exchange for the wage freeze, the officers requested that the borough pay the 5 percent of the officers' wages that they currently pay toward their pensions, and also the 15 percent of the yearly increase in health insurance benefits that they pay.

"Negotiations are continuing," Councilwoman Gail Macioce said. "We expect to reach an amicable settlement."

The police department has two full-time officers and a chief. The borough has 10 officers on the part-time roster.

At the workshop meeting, new police Chief Roger E. Pivirotto also discussed his plans for the department. One change he has already made is to stop using the cells in the police station. He said that having unsupervised suspects in those cells could endanger his officers, as well as expose the borough to liability.

He said he would like the borough to buy a heavy bench with a hook for handcuffs where prisoners can sit during processing. He said those arrested now stay upstairs with officers during processing before they are taken to the magistrate or to another holding facility.

Anne Cloonan, freelance writer:

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