The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, December 08, 2021 1:00 am

Firefighters closing in on 5% pay raise

DEVAN FILCHAK | The Journal Gazette

Fort Wayne firefighters will get 5% raises each of the next three years after City Council approved a collective bargaining agreement Tuesday.

The 5% raise matches the wage increases approved this year in the collective bargaining agreement for city police officers.

Raises for city firefighters above the 4% raise approved for other city employees was brought up as City Council members discussed the 2022 budget in October. Fire Chief Eric Lahey said in October that union negotiations were still ongoing, but 5% raises were planned.

Adam Henry, the attorney representing the local fire union, said the raises will help the fire department compete with other agencies across the state.

“For base salary and pension-base, which takes into consideration longevity, by the end of this contract, the city of Fort Wayne, the Fort Wayne Fire Department may very well see itself in the top 10,” Henry said, assuming other departments have 2% or 3% raises annually in the next three years.

Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th, said he knows the negotiations took a long time, but he is excited to see the department moving the public safety servants up in pay.

“I would just like to say that is an extraordinary accomplishment,” he said.

Councilman Tom Freistroffer, R-at large, said he has talked with some of the union members who are “fairly in congruence with what we're doing here.”

All council members voted in favor of granting preliminary approval of the collective bargaining agreement. City Council, which rarely changes its preliminary decisions, will discuss and formally vote on the agreement at its next meeting.

Water and sewer district

In other business, the council voted against City Utilities' acquisition of the Allen County Regional Water and Sewer District.

Kumar Menon, City Utilities director, has said the acquisition would save the more than 3,000 water and sewer district customers about $600 a year.

The request failed at the council's Nov. 23 committee meeting, but Councilman Russ Jehl, R-2nd, asked to table it to give the water and sewer district board one more chance to reconsider its representation. The water and sewer board took no action on the proposed representation of five city representatives and four county representatives.

Multiple City Council members asked for the water and sewer district's board to be dominant with county representation.

However, Menon has said the board must remain dominant with city representatives because the city will have taken on the sewer district's debt and will manage all customers' sewer services.

Jehl was one of four members who voted against bringing the request back before council during a special meeting Tuesday.

Council voted 5-4 against the acquisition with votes of opposition from Councilmen Jason Arp, R-4th; Glynn Hines, D-at large; Paul Ensley, R-1st; Councilwoman Sharon Tucker, D-6th; and Jehl.

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