Dusten Rader/Express staff
Gloversville Fire Fighters Association President Ed Martelle stands with Mayor Dayton King May 9 during the Common Council Meeting.
By DUSTEN RADER
Fulton County Express
GLOVERSVILLE — The Common Council, Mayor Dayton King and the Gloversville Fire Fighters Association Local 719 have come to an agreement on a contract that will last through 2023.
The Council voted 5-1 Tuesday night to approve the contract, with 5th Ward Councilman Jay Zarrelli voting no. One councilman was absent, Arthur Simonds, 2nd Ward.
King said a deal was reached May 5 during an all-day mediation session that ended at 8:30 p.m. The contract was ratified by the fire fighter’s union Monday night. The former contract expired in 2013.
“We want to make sure we continue public safety — so we realized we want to cooperate,” King said. “We want to save the city money, which we’re doing, and we want to maintain that level of staffing. Finally we’ve been able to accomplish this. So, I think it’s real big deal and we’re heading the right direction.”
The new contract includes a reduction in staffing per shift from eight regular and seven minimum to seven regular and five minimum. According to King, the change will take effect in about a month. Martelle an King agreed that the change should not have a negative impact on public safety.
“We are professionals and we have a good group of administrators at the department who are going to provide us with appropriate responses for fires, EMS and day-to-day,” Martelle said. “While it is not ideal … it is still within the realm of what I, and we all, consider safe for the citizens.”
The current number of firefighters is 28, which is down from 32. Martelle said he chose not to hire replacements for those who retired, cutting positions through attrition in anticipation of a new contract.
King said he expects more firefighters to retire soon due to the addition of incentives for retirement. Those who retire before Dec. 31, 2018 will receive a $10,000 payment.
For 2019, retirees will receive a payment of $7,500 and for 2020 a payment of $5,000.
Raises for firefighters were also included in the contract. No raises were given for the years of 2013 through 2016. For 2017-19 a 2 percent raise will be in effect. Then for the following three years a raise of 2.25 percent will be in a effect.
The contract also includes changes to the way firefighters pay for insurance. Current firefighters pay a percentage of their insurance premium based on their pay. Starting in 2021 they will contribute 17 percent of the premium. New firefighters will begin the payment structure immediately.
“This is a good contract,” Martelle said. “Hopefully it addresses the city’s financial issues and it is beneficial to us in certain ways — overall we feel good about the results. … This is how good government works. You sit, work through it and ultimately you get a better deal than if you let someone else decide for you.”
Both Martelle and King agreed that working together was the best option for the city to move forward. King said arbitration or a referendum could have cost the city more than $1 million. Adding that cost to the projected savings of more than $900,000 over the course of the contract, King said he sees this as a $2 million win for the city.
“My goal is going to be continued public safety and decrease taxes — I think we can accomplish both,” King said. “It will also promote business. People want to come to an area that has high quality public services and the taxes aren’t so high.”
“Everyone here wants the city to improve … we would certainly hope public safety is certainly a consideration,” Martelle said.
King cited several individuals for their effort in making the contract a reality: Finance Commissioner Tammie Weiterschan, Fire Chief Tom Groff, Labor Attorney Bryan Goldberger of Goldberger and Kremer Law Firm of Albany, as well as union representatives such as Martelle.