New pay plans for city police and firefighters won approval at City Hall on Tuesday night, but not without some objection.
Commissioners approved new agreements with the city’s police and fire unions on a 4-1 vote. Commissioner Lance Johnson said some of the wage increases were just too much for him to support during such a tight economy.
“I’ve struggled a lot with this,” Johnson said. “I think everything was done in good faith, but my conscience from a taxpayer’s standpoint tells me I have to hold back on this.”
The contracts provide varying wage increases for the two groups. Some of the key provisions include:
• All police officers will receive a wage increase of 1.5 percent at the beginning of 2011. Police detectives will not receive the general wage increase because the city contends detective salaries already are at or above levels seen in area communities.
• Both police officers and detectives will receive either a 2.5 percent or 5 percent wage increase on their anniversary date, based on their evaluations. But if they already are at the top of the pay scale for their position they won’t be eligible for the merit/step increases.
• Firefighters will receive on their anniversary dates either a 2.5 percent or 5 percent merit/step increase, based upon their evaluations. Firefighters who are at the top of their pay scale, however, will be eligible for only a 2.5 percent increase.
A majority of commissioners said they were comfortable with the pay plans, in part, because an increase in the city’s property tax mill levy was not needed to fund the raises.
In other business at City Hall, commissioners approved a permit that will allow patrons of The Oread hotel’s upcoming block parties to consume alcohol on parts of the public right-of-way near the hotel at 12th and Oread.
Commissioners approved the request on a 3-2 vote, with Mayor Mike Amyx and Commissioner Rob Chestnut opposed. Commissioners largely had approved the request last month when the hotel sought approval for the block parties, which will occur before and after each home Kansas University football game. The alcohol request couldn’t be given final approval at that time because it required a special public hearing.
Amyx and Chestnut both cited safety concerns in voting against the proposal. The other three commissioners voted for the proposal, but did require that the tents where alcohol will be sold be moved off the right-of-way. Only possession of alcohol will be allowed in the right-of-way, not sales.