By Joe Gorman
City council members dealt with two issues regarding safety forces in its last meeting before its summer recess.
Council ratified a tentative contract Wednesday with the union that represents the dispatchers in the city’s 911 center and also agreed to an amendment to the city’s master salary ordinance that creates six captains in the police department, but also allows for that number to be reduced to three through attrition.
Police Chief Robin Lees said during the finance committee portion of the meeting that the idea to reduce the number of positions actually was proposed by the Youngstown Police Ranking Officers union.
By reducing those positions, the city then can use the money to put more patrol officers on the street, Lees said.
“We’re top-heavy, and this is part of the effort to put more patrol officers on the street,” Lees said.
The department has six captains. They make about $80,000 a year.
Lees said two captains are expected to retire this year, and though it will be awhile before the third captain is expected to retire, the department still will have two fewer captains.
Councilwoman Janet Tarpley, D-6th, council’s finance committee chairman; and Councilman T.J. Rodgers, D-2nd, said they were concerned with the captain positions being eliminated because it could open the city up to a discrimination lawsuit by minority officers who are wanting to get promoted to captain because there will be fewer positions.
Assistant Law Director Rebecca Gerson told the committee that while anyone can sue at anytime, the union representing ranking officers signed off on the change. She added that management has the right to determine the number of management positions.
As for the 911 dispatchers’ contract, Gerson said it is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2013, but there is no retroactive pay raise being granted for 2013.
She said the pact calls for raises of 1 percent in 2014 and 1.5 percent in 2015.
The contract runs to Dec. 31, 2015.
Another highlight, Gerson said, is that the union agreed to create a Health Insurance Review Committee, which will study and recommend programs to lower insurance costs.
Employees also will pay 10 percent of their insurance premium, not to exceed $100 per month for a single plan and $200 for a family plan.
The contract must still be approved by the city board of control.