Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Safety Harbor firefighters lose bid for bonuses

SAFETY HARBOR — City commissioners say this small town, population 17,800, and its firefighters union are like one big happy family.

But like most families, disagreements arise and this time it was about money.

At a packed meeting Monday night, the City Commission conducted an impasse hearing and ultimately sided with management on a disagreement with the firefighters union over how loyalty should be rewarded. The negotiators had already agreed on 36 of 37 contract issues.

The city wants to reward loyal long-term employees with additional time off in lieu of the current longevity pay. The firefighters would prefer the cash.

"Sometimes it's hard for us to get the time off," said negotiating agent John Little, president of the International Association of Firefighters, Local 2267.

Under the union proposal, firefighters would receive between $750 and $1,650 per year depending on length of continuous employment. That would cost the city about $28,000 for the 25 firefighters Little represents — or nearly $140,000 if the city extended the monetary benefit to all employees, as some had suggested.

City Manager Matt Spoor reminded commissioners the town was strapped for cash.

"Revenues over the last three years didn't meet expenditures," he said, "and we're anticipating the same thing for the fourth year."

The budget for the current fiscal year projects a deficit of more than $900,000, which means the city must dip into its reserves. In September, commissioners voted to raise the tax rate from $3.0674 per $1,000 in taxable property value to $3.3808 to try to slow the hemorrhage.

The city's proposal rewards firefighters with five to 15 years of continuous employment with an additional 12 hours off a year; 16 years or more would warrant 24 hours off per year. In firefighter terms, that's a half shift and a full shift.

The proposal would have a benefit of about $11,600 to the firefighters without costing the city money.

Dennis Magee, a former member of the code enforcement board, spoke in favor of the union, suggesting firefighters who risk their lives should be treated differently from nonunion city employees.

Eric Davis, a sanitation truck driver for the city and long-term employee, said he was "more than insulted" by Magee's comments, stating all employees provide valuable services.

"I have a family to support as well," he said.

Vice Mayor Joe Ayoub stressed the importance of fiscal responsibility.

He cited recent cuts in education, travel and street repaving projects as well as money the city gives to the museum and programs to help the hungry and poor.

"Everyone's in the red, everyone's cutting," he said.

Commissioner Mary Lynda Williams thanked the firefighters for resuscitating her husband on numerous occasions but said, "If I can't give (the cash benefit) to everyone, it's not fair. Times are tough."

And Commissioner Nina Bandoni said she worried that to single out firefighters for longevity pay would "create the wrong kind of message for the family atmosphere you've helped to create."

Mayor Andy Steingold said the "timing couldn't be worse."

He offered a compromise in which the commission would double the proposed time off for longevity.

"Does it sound sweet? Or does it just sound unmanageable?" asked Commissioner Nancy Besore, trying to see if firefighters would bite.

But Fire Chief Joe Accetta said the crowded leave calendar was already 80 percent full for the year. And commissioners unanimously agreed with management's recommendation.

Now the contract goes to the union for ratification.

Little said he understood the city's position.

"It's not like we're going to get out of the sandbox and go home," he said.

Safety Harbor firefighters lose bid for bonuses 12/08/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 8, 2010 7:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. The Iron Yard coding academy to close in St. Petersburg

    Business

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Iron Yard, a code-writing academy with a location in downtown St. Petersburg, will close for good this summer.

    Instructors (from left) Mark Dewey, Jason Perry, and Gavin Stark greet the audience at The Iron Yard, 260 1st Ave. S, in St. Petersburg during "Demo Day" Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, at The Iron Yard, which is an immersive code school that is part of a trend of trying to address the shortage of programmers.  The academy is closing this summer.  [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  2. Florida's unemployment rate drops for fourth straight month

    Markets

    How low can Florida's unemployment go? Pretty low, according to the state's latest unemployment numbers. The Sunshine State's unemployment rate dropped to 4.1 percent for June, down from 4.3 percent in May, state officials said Friday morning.

    Florida's unemployment level dropped to 4.1 percent in June from 4.3 percent in May. |  [Times file photo]
  3. 20 great images from around the globe for July 14 to July 21

    World

    Photos of the week for July 14 - July 21: A giant sinkhole swallows homes in Florida, a desperate rescue attempt in Karachi, synchronized swimmers competing in Budapest, a rainy rugby match in Australia, a smiling O.J. Simpson in Nevada and more.

    A lobsterman's boat leaves a gentle wake as he motors out of a harbor on a foggy morning, Friday, July 21, 2017, in Boothbay, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
  4. Is sinkhole damage sinking Tampa Bay property values?

    Real Estate

    On a scale of desirability, the house for sale on Whittner Drive in Land O' Lakes would rank fairly low. It's a short sale; it sits on an unstabilized sinkhole and it's within a few miles of two houses that collapsed into a gargantuan hole July 16.

    A gated community in Hernando's Spring Hill area, Pristine Place has long been susceptible to sinkholes with nearly a third of its houses with documented sinkhole damage by 2012. Today, however, many houses with repaired sinkhole damage are selling for more than houses without any issues. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times file photo]
  5. Disabled Tampa man takes his story to center of health care debate

    National

    Michael Phillips was hunting demons Monday night when the news broke: The Senate health care bill was dying.

    (Left) Karen Clay, 64, operates a medical ventilator to help her son Michael Phillips, 36, breath. Michael has spinal muscular atrophy and is confined to his bed. He can breath only with the aid of a machine. Here, they are photographed at their Tampa home Wednesday, July 19, 2017. Michael and his family have been closely watching the upcoming health care vote and how it would affect them.