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Cape Coral firefighters vote on cuts

Union to decide on pay reduction today after police rejected same plan last week

Aug. 1, 2011

In other business

Monday at the Cape Coral City Council:

• Utilities Director Jeff Spear reported his concerns about 1,157 change orders on several utilities projects between 2007 and 2009 that cost the city millions. Mayor John Sullivan said he will ask for an audit of the north reverse osmosis water treatment plant.

• Reviewed plans to refinance $82.2 million of outstanding water and sewer revenue bonds by issuing up to $175 million in bonds backed by utilities funds. Six managers will handle the account and be paid at a rate of $5.28 per $1,000. Costs are included in the bond and paid from bond proceeds. A public hearing was set for Aug. 22.

• Called for public input Monday on a resolution to ask for state funding for $1.3 million worth of sidewalks on Academy Boulevard, Southwest 20th Avenue and Skyline Boulevard.

Police and fire department salaries for 2010

• Average Cape Coral Police Department salaries:
Officers and sergeants: $54,000
Deputy chiefs, lieutenants and captains: $92,000

• Average Cape Coral Fire Department salaries:
Firefighters: $59,000
Battalion chiefs, division chiefs and chief: $89,000

• Wage and pension cuts proposed:
3 percent cut to salary and increase in pension contribution from 7 to 9 percent of salary

• Cape City Manager Gary King salary:
Base pay is $132,500 salary; council approved bonus of $17,750


With attention turning to the Cape Coral firefighter's union to see if they will follow in the footsteps of the police union and reject a tentative agreement to cut pay when voting opens today, questions have been raised about the police union's motives.

City labor attorney John Hament said the overwhelming 185 to 1 vote by police union members last week suggests they're playing politics.

"It appears as if they're sending a political message with such a one-sided vote, as opposed to a good-faith vote," Hament said.

Union president Kurt Grau denied the assertion, adding he was surprised by the outcome.

"It was not political. The guys are frustrated with a number of things," he said. "It's money being taken out of their pockets."

In a scathing statement released after the vote, Grau said his members could not accept pay cuts in light of City Manager Gary King's $17,750 bonus, approved by council last week.

"The city manager stated the bonus was 'contractual,' but the fact is that yearly step increases are contractual for FOP members as well, yet we have foregone them for three years," the statement reads.

"Our membership felt the city manager receiving a bonus, while workers take yet another wage reduction, was insulting and a slap in the face to every police officer who serves and protects this community."

King declined comment, except to say through city spokeswoman Connie Barron that he would be reaching out to the union to discuss the reasons for the contract rejection.

The agreement would have cut pay by 3 percent and hiked pension contributions from 7 to 9 percent of salary.

The same basic terms will be voted on by the fire union beginning today and ending Friday.

Hament said the police union vote was "ill-conceived" because King took a substantial pay cut before he took office and, even including the bonus, his pay is down 9 percent compared to the previous city manager.

King was offered a $140,000 salary by council and voluntarily reduced it by $7,500, or 5.3 percent.

Hament said the vote was more emotional than rational.

"The city manager has a contract and all the City Council was doing was honoring his contract that calls for a performance incentive," Hament said.

Fire union president Mark Muerth said Monday he would hold off on making comments about the police union vote so close to his own union's vote to avoid influencing the members.

Muerth said last week's vote will likely be fresh on their minds, though, but noted the general employee's union has already ratified a similar deal.

"To some degree, it's human nature, maybe to look at what other unions did," Muerth said. "Obviously in this case we've had two different groups go in two different directions."

City Council was scheduled to discuss the contracts Monday night but removed the items from the agenda in light of last week's vote.

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