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GIRARD Firefighters reach pact with mayor



Published: Tue, January 8, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Two Girard lawmakers expressed displeasure with the mayor over the agreement.

By TIM YOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

GIRARD -- City firefighters have agreed to a freeze in wages and clothing allowance in exchange for no more layoffs in the department.

Existence of the agreement was made public Monday by Councilwoman Kathleen O'Connell Sauline, D-2nd, chairwoman of city council's finance committee.

Both Sauline and council president Louis Adovasio were critical of the mayor for making the deal without first informing lawmakers who are attempting to balance this year's budget.

The city is under a state-imposed fiscal emergency and has to come up with a balanced budget when the city oversight commission meets Jan. 25.

Questioned agreement: During a work session Monday involving the city administration and council, Sauline questioned the agreement because the state auditor's office has said the budget can't be balanced without more layoffs in the fire department.

Mayor James Melfi has laid off 14 part-time firefighters, three full-timers in the police department and six more workers in other departments.

Sauline and Adovasio were miffed at the mayor because they weren't told by the mayor during a work session last Friday that the deal had been struck.

Melfi said lawmakers had been told of the proposal and that he was considering it.

Under the agreement with the International Association of Firefighters Local 1220, firefighters will forgo a 3.25-percent wage increase this year and their clothing allowance. Melfi said it will save $45,000 this year.

If there are additional firefighter layoffs, the agreement is void.

Looking ahead: This does, however, open the door for similar agreements with the two unions representing city workers -- Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association Ohio Council and International Association of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3356.

During the meeting, Sauline suggested the city accept $250,000 from Girard Municipal Judge Michael Bernard as an advance on the justice center debt.

"We're looking for a little more help from you," Melfi told Judge Bernard, noting he would like to see cuts in court employees.

Melfi pointed out the police department has given up $430,000 in salaries through layoffs and attrition, while furloughing the part-time firefighters saved $123,000.

"Legally, I don't owe the city anything," the judge countered as he charged Melfi was "grandstanding."

yovich@vindy.com




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