Portage council approves salary increases, firefighters’ contract
BY JOHN ROBBINS Post-Tribune correspondent December 24, 2013 1:20AM
Updated: December 24, 2013 5:49PM
It’s going to be a green Christmas in Portage this year as the common council voted on raises and bonuses for elected officials and union and non-union personnel at a special end-of-year session Monday night.
The council voted to approve a salary ordinance that gives elected officials raises for the first time in several years. The annual salary of the mayor jumps from $50,920 to $53,466. The clerk/treasurer will now receive annual compensation of $60,446, up from $54,090. Council members pay increases from $12,000 annually to $13,410.
This was the last chance for the council to act on 2014 salaries for elected officials. If they had not approved the pay increase Monday night, elected officials would have had to wait until 2015 for a raise.
The first of five contracts between the city and operating unions also was approved. The council agreed to a contract with firefighters Local 3151; the contract had been ratified by the union on Nov. 25.
The contract gives firefighters 2-percent raises for 2014 and 2015 and a 1-percent raise in 2016. The contract approves a switch from its current health insurer carrier to the Local 150 Operating Engineers health and welfare fund.
A third major provision in the firefighters contract will, with certain limitations, guarantee firefighters 12 hours of overtime pay for each 27-day work period. According to Fire Chief Tom Fieffer, firefighters can work 216 hours in a 27-day stretch, known as a “Kelly period,” but federal labor-law restrictions reduce the portion of those hours that can count as straight-time pay, thus requiring some of it to be paid at overtime rates.
The firefighters contract also includes a $750 signing bonus.
Four other union contracts are still being negotiated with the city. Each is expected to also have bonuses in some form.
Mayor James Snyder received a $1,000 bonus as chairman of the utility service board and the council, acting on a request by Snyder, approved a $2,000 bonus for clerk/treasurer Stidham.
Thirty-six non-contact employees will also receive end-of-year $500 bonuses. Clerk/treasurer Chris Stidham said those employees should have gotten their bonuses Dec. 24, just in time for last-minute Christmas gifts.
In other action, the case of retired Portage police officer Roger Peele versus the city of Portage is now finally over.
The city agreed to an out-of court settlement with Peele for $132,500.
Claiming his constitutionally protected freedom of speech had been infringed, Peele had sued the city in 2009.
Peele had commented on the results of the 2007 Portage democratic mayoral primary race. He was subsequently transferred from his position as detective and reassigned as duty officer.
The case was dismissed in 2012 but the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals revived the case in July of this year.
Tom Dogan, the attorney representing the city, recommended that the city settle to avoid continuing prolonging what had become an expensive legal battle.
The city has already paid $300,000 to $400,000 in costs associated with the case, according to Stidham.