Thursday, November 23, 2017
News Roundup

Firefighters, Oldsmar still at impasse on pension issue

RECOMMENDED READING


OLDSMAR — City negotiators and the union representing the city's rank-and-file firefighters appeared before a special magistrate last week in an attempt to resolve their impasse over a new fire union contract.

Pay raises and retirement benefits are the two sticking points.

At the hearing, the sides were able to agree on the raise issue: Firefighters will get merit raises of 2, 2.5 and 3 percent over the next three years.

However, the retirement benefits continue to be a major sticking point.

Citing the long-term maintenance costs associated with the current city pension plan, city officials want to freeze it and move firefighters into the state public employees retirement system. Firefighters would be given a choice to either keep their money in the frozen plan until retirement or receive their accrued benefits as a lump-sum payout.

"We feel like the current plan is doing well,'' said Jason Schwabe, who represents International Association of Firefighters Local 2980, which represents Palm Harbor and Oldsmar firefighters. "A main concern is if we go to the state plan, we would lose the number of years of service we have already put in. We'd start all over at Day One.''

Schwabe was 25 in 2001 when he became an Oldsmar firefighter.

"Currently, I have 13 years of service. If I stay in the city's plan, this means I could retire in 12 more years — at 50,'' he said. "But, if I go into the state system, I can't retire for almost another 25 years.''

During negotiations, the union suggested other options, including keeping current members in the city pension plan but closing it to new employees, Schwabe said.

"With the close, they wouldn't have new people adding to their liability,'' he said. "But they were steadfast in freezing it.''

City Manager Bruce Haddock said he agrees with Schwabe that the current city plan is in good shape financially.

"But I think that the issue is the cost the city is likely to face over a long period of time, and by that I mean 20 to 30 years,'' Haddock said.

Special magistrate John McCollister gave the city and union until May 1 to send him their post-hearing briefs. After that, he will make his recommendations to resolve the impasse.

If an agreement still isn't reached, the issue will go back to the City Council for final resolution.

Haddock acknowledged that the negotiating process is never easy.

"One of the points that I was pleased about in terms of what happened at the hearing was that the union accepted our pay proposal … Now we'll just wait to hear what the magistrate says and go from there.''

Piper Castillo can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4163. To write a letter to the editor, visit tampabay.com/letters.

Comments
Thanksgiving forecast: Rain today, but sunny skies this weekend

Thanksgiving forecast: Rain today, but sunny skies this weekend

It’s going to be a wet Thanksgiving across Tampa Bay, but sunny skies are coming during the long weekend, according to WTSP 10Weather meteorologist Ric Kearbey. 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-area radar 10...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Self-proclaimed Nazi banned from University of North Florida — but allowed to remain a student

Self-proclaimed Nazi banned from University of North Florida — but allowed to remain a student

A self-proclaimed Nazi is banned from the University of North Florida’s campus — but will remain a student, university officials said.Ken Parker, a 37-year-old Navy veteran who once served as the grand dragon, or highest-ranking leader, of the Ku Klu...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Days after a high fever, Jon Mott wins his fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

Days after a high fever, Jon Mott wins his fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

CLEARWATER — On Tuesday, Jon Mott had a 103-degree fever. That was not enough to keep him from maintaining his dominance Thursday at the 39th Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot.The former Northeast standout added to his record with his fifth title in the ev...
Updated: 1 hour ago
President Trump presents his report card, passes with flying colors

President Trump presents his report card, passes with flying colors

PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump has a Thanksgiving Day message for the nation: Look at all I’ve done. Trump is telling followers in an early-morning holiday tweet that, "your Country is starting to do really well." He says: Jobs are "coming back,...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Lutz pedestrian dies in accident on U.S. 41

LUTZ — A man is dead after deputies said he walked into the path of a car on U.S. Route 41 Wednesday night.Charles Miller, 69 of Lutz, was walking east across the highway at 7:34 p.m., according to Florida Highway Patrol.Daniel Johnson, 35 and also o...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Police: Family hit on Dale Mabry Highway in stable condition

TAMPA — The mother and two small children who were hit by a car while trying to cross Dale Mabry Highway on Wednesday were all in stable condition by Thanksgiving morning, said Tampa police. Investigators said the family is not originally from the Ta...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Tarpon Springs seeking to honor sponger George Billiris

Tarpon Springs seeking to honor sponger George Billiris

TARPON SPRINGS — The city is considering a way to honor the legacy of the late longtime sponge merchant George Billiris at a city building. "We know how he promoted Tarpon Springs," Commissioner David Banther said at a recent City Commission meeting....
Published: 11/23/17
New Weeki Wachee basketball coach transitions from years on college sidelines

New Weeki Wachee basketball coach transitions from years on college sidelines

WEEKI WACHEE — Mark Lee was looking for an accomplished coach to take over Weeki Wachee High’s boys basketball team. Not only did he find what he was searching for, but he may have gone above and beyond with the hiring of Rick Scruggs.The 30-year vet...
Published: 11/23/17
Bar review: Fashion and adult beverages at Bartique in St. Petersburg

Bar review: Fashion and adult beverages at Bartique in St. Petersburg

Like many people, I treat holiday shopping as a terrifying last-minute ordeal — a scramble to fill out gift lists with a number of items that, despite a complete lack of planning, will somehow seem thoughtful.You know what would make this whole thing...
Published: 11/23/17
Florida 10-year-old is one of 21 kids suing federal government over climate change

Florida 10-year-old is one of 21 kids suing federal government over climate change

At age 10, Levi Draheim hates math and loves reading Harry Potter books. He plays the violin but dislikes practicing. What he really enjoys is paddling a kayak or going swimming. It helps that he lives just a five-minute walk from the beach in the to...
Updated: 2 hours ago