Vernon, police union sign agreement on contract
By Kym Soper
VERNON - After more than a year without a contract, the police union signed a five-year settlement agreement with the town today that gives uniformed officers on average a 3.4 percent raise and increases their co-payments for health insurance premiums.
The 49 officers affected have been working without a contract since the last agreement expired June 30, 2006.
The new agreement is retroactive to July 1, 2006, and runs to June 30, 2011.
Town officials say that a state arbitrator was brought in for one introductory meeting, but negotiations wrapped up soon after without the need for mediation.
The contract was ratified Oct. 11, and the Town Council gave its unanimous approval two weeks ago in a special meeting, Town Administrator Christopher Clark said.
Town Councilman Daniel Champagne, a Vernon police officer, recused himself from discussions and the vote.
Total cost to the town and taxpayers over the five years of the contract comes to $5.6 million, and the first two years have been budgeted for, Clark said.
Under the terms of the contract, police officers will see a retroactive pay increase of 3 percent in each of the first two years of the contract, which runs from July 1, 2006, to June 30, 2008. A 3.5 percent raise will follow that for each of the next two years, from July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2010.
In the final year of the contract, police officers will get a pay raise of 3 percent, followed by an additional 1 percent increase six months later on Jan. 1, 2011.
Co-payments for health insurance will rise from the current 7.5 percent to 10 percent for those officers enrolled in the HMO plan.
Officers enrolled in other health insurance programs will see their premiums increase over the five-year contract by 15 percent.
Under the new contract police officers will earn a minimum of $49,025 and a maximum of $81,806, depending on rank, years of service, and degree attained.
The police chief, captain, administrative staff, and dispatchers are not covered under the contract.
Town staff say costs were always a concern during the lengthy negotiations while union officials claim pay and health coverage as their main sticking points.
"It's been a long time coming and I'm glad it's over," Officer Tim Gunnoud, president of the Vernon Police Officers Association, said after a public signing of the document in the mayor's office this morning.
Newly elected Mayor Jason L. McCoy said the contract brings $60,000 a year in savings to the town with the co-pay increase for doctor office visits.
The contract also stipulates that the town and union negotiate a "revenue neutral" voluntary deferred retirement plan to go into effect July 1, 2008.
Both sides hope that the plan will retain officers who want to remain in town law enforcement past the typical retirement deadline of 20 years.
"It's difficult finding new police officers and we'd rather retain our more experienced staff," McCoy said.
"This gives us another tool for people who want to stick around longer," Gunnoud agreed.
©Journal Inquirer 2007