ELKHART — Elkhart City Council approved new contracts for police and fire departments despite concerns about lagging pay that is hurting recruiting efforts.
Approval of both contracts were made by votes of 8-1, with the lone dissenting vote coming from David Henke, who said more needs to be done to boost salaries.
The contract with the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 338 is a three-year contract. The contract with Fraternal Order of Police Post 52 is a four-year deal.
The police contract had been a two-year deal that was rolled over for several years. The firefighters contract had also previously been extended. The new agreement begins Jan. 1.
Vicci Moore, director of human resources, said the new contracts were given different lengths so that they are staggered and can be renegotiated separately.
Pay for both departments, as well as the rest of the city workforce, is accomplished through salary ordinances approved by city council each year.
All city employees will receive a 2 percent hike next year.
Henke said he’d like to see more emphasis put on salaries instead of benefits for both unions.
“I’m not really pleased with much of it,” said Dustin Flagg, president of the IAFF 338. “Councilman Henke is right when he says there are no major changes. There’s small creature comfort things here and there.”
“We gave them several ideas on how to reduce insurance costs and until the last meeting, we got no feedback on that,” Flagg said.
Jason Ray, president of the local FOP, said they also sought some kind of boost in pay but was given an assurance that more effort would be made in the future.
Thursday’s meeting was set up after Republicans on council delayed a review of the contracts Monday because information provided to council members did not clearly spell out the changes from the previous contract.
Negotiations had begun months ago, but council, which could have a member from each political party attend some of the meetings, was not heavily involved. According to Moore, only one council member attended any meetings and that was somewhat limited.
The board of public safety approved the contracts Monday.