WARREN Firefighters contract is on agenda



It's going to cost more to clean up the former Mahoningside power plant site.
By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- City council is expected to either accept or reject a fact finder's report on a contract for firefighters at the regular meeting tonight.
Council's finance committee members didn't discuss the report at their meeting Tuesday, but two pieces of legislation, one accepting the report and one rejecting it, are on the meeting agenda.
Councilman Robert A. Marchese, D-at large, finance committee chairman, said an executive session would likely be called at tonight's meeting to discuss the issues.
The fact finder's report calls for a 4.25-percent increase in the contract's first year, followed by increases of 4 percent and 3.5 percent in the second and third years, respectively.
According to the report, distributed to council members Monday, the union had initially proposed 9-percent pay raises each year but modified it to 5 percent, 4 percent and 3.5 percent.
The union had reasoned that it lagged about 15 percent behind similar firefighting units.
Proposal
The city had proposed a two-year contract with a 1-percent raise each year and raised those percentages and added a third year during mediation. The report doesn't indicate how much the city increased the percentages it proposed.
The report said that neither the union nor the city raised a "current ability to pay" issue, but the city "expressed concern that if a renewal of an existing income tax levy failed to pass in 2004, the subsequent loss of revenue could threaten the solvency of the city's budget and lead to layoffs in this unit and possibly others."
The fact finder referred to the most recent police contract in his recommendation. That contract was enacted earlier this year.
"The police contract evidenced both an ability and willingness on the part of the city to find pay increases of this magnitude acceptable," the report said.
"The potential uncertainty surrounding renewal of the income tax levy in 2004 suggests the need for wage moderations in the third year of the contract."
Power plant cleanup
In other business, council is expected to consider legislation to raise from $2.3 million to $5.7 million the cap on the anticipated cost to clean up the former Mahoningside power plant site.
In October, council approved legislation to submit a grant application for Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund assistance through the Ohio Department of Development.
The city had planned to remove contaminants at the site, place them at a certified landfill, demolish buildings and refill the basement area with soil that is within acceptable contamination levels and encapsulate it.
The federal and state Environmental Protection agencies then informed the city that they want the soil piles removed from the site and disposed of properly and clean soil brought in to fill in the basement areas. That's a more expensive course of action than what the city had planned, resulting in the increased costs, officials said.

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