Irwin council adopts police contract

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Irwin council on Monday night approved a new three-year police contract that will freeze wages for borough police officers for two years.

In the contract’s third year, officers will receive a three percent wage increase. As part of the agreement, police officers will no longer have to contribute 5 percent to the police pension plan; and will no longer have to contribute $108 per month toward the cost of their health insurance.

The vote followed contentious debate about the contract.

Councilman John Cassandro, who was replaced as council president by Bob Wayman at the reorganization meeting before the voting meeting, said the negotiating committee alone didn’t have the authority to set terms for the contract, without the approval of council.

“You are the one who negotiated on your own, not the committee,” Mr. Wayman said.

Mr. Cassandro said the contract will cost Irwin $12,000 more, and represents a 15 percent increase in costs.

“The committee has never proposed where this money will come from,“ Mr. Cassandro said. “The budget was finalized. We cannot now raise taxes to pay for this.”

“That reads like a fairy tale. That might as well be the Brothers Grimm,” Mr. Wayman responded.

Councilwoman Peggie Watson said a police contract proposal put forward by another councilwoman would have raised expenses by $19,000, not $12,000.

“Irwin Police Department remains the lowest paid police department in Westmoreland County,” Mr. Wayman said.

The contract passed by a 4-3 vote. In November, a version very similar to the final contract was rejected by a 4-3 vote.

Anne Cloonan, freelance writer:

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