MIAMI - Long negotiated contracts with Miami police and firefighters finally culminated in a two-year agreement approved by the Miami City Council Tuesday night.

The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 121 and International Association of Fire Fighters approved and entered employment contracts with the City of Miami retroactive to July 1, 2016 for fiscal years 2016 to 2017 and 2017 to 2018 after at least 10 months of negotiations.

“I’m very excited to bring this to you. First off, I just wanted to start with some thank-yous, this has been a fairly long process,” City Manager Dean Kruithof said. “We really started our negotiations about nine or 10 months ago and I think everybody that was involved would recognize that this was a very unique process we went through this year and I want to thank both of the unions. It was very much a team effort on both sides of the table on negotiations.”

Kruithof also thanked the department chiefs and Human Resource Director Kim Horn. The contracts lay out employee standards, conduct, benefits, wages, working conditions, promotions and other agreements for Miami police and firefighters, including establishing market range wages.

“We, in essence, have the same type of agreement with both bargaining units,” Kruithof said.

A wage schedule for Miami police officers for Fiscal Year July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 starts at $32,939 in the first year of service to $42,924 at 30 years, and, depending on years of service, Corporals or Detectives from $37,805 to $46,801; Sergeants from $42,313 to $50,683; and Captains from $50,243 to $57,094. For Fiscal Year July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018 officer wages are scheduled at $32,460 to $44,728; Detectives from $36,978 to $49,498; Corporals from $35,285 to $49,398; Sergeants from $39,284 to $54,998; and Captains from $51,080 to $63,397.

Progression through pay bands will be based on years of service in rank. Extra seniority will be credited for Associate, Bachelors, and Masters degrees earned in job related fields.

For FY 2016-2017 Miami firefighters will earn $34,626 beginning their second year and up to $38,391 at 15 years and over, and, depending on years of service, Drivers from $36,406 to $40,081; Lieutenants from $37,830 to $44,804; and Captains will be paid $47,141. In FY 2017-2018 first year firefighters start at $29,285 and go to $40,999 in their 25th year, and, depending on their years of service, Drivers from $31,949 to $44,728; Lieutenants from $38,672 to $49,398; and Captains from $39,284 to $54,998.

“We’re just glad we’ve got a contract finally,” IAFF Local president Jesse Haile said in a later interview. “And our captains are going to be compensated as we feel they should have been all along, with some separation in ranks where it’s not so close together.”

Haile said the new structure gives more incentive, is fair and more equitable.

“It’s actually two one-year contracts. It’s actually the first time we’ve ever done anything like that, and the second year there’s actually more earning potential,” Haile said. “I can say that past administrations made it hard for us to have a lot of trust, and that’s nobody’s fault that’s there now. It’s people that have moved on. I felt like this was one of the best negotiations we’ve had since I’ve been involved in it. We’re getting there. It’s a positive step, where it hasn’t been that way in the past.”

Fire Chief Robert Wright commented later, saying he was happy the negotiations stayed here, and he said, “I don’t want to speak for them, but the way they were receptive and worked towards an agreement, same with Dean and Kim, everybody was committed, you know. I was really happy with this new contract. From my perspective, I was happy that both sides stayed with it to work something out.”

During the council meeting the city manager explained the move toward more equitable wages across the board.

“If you’ll remember, about the same time I came on board, the City had done a wage and salary study for all employees, and, I will stress, all employees were included - all police, all fire and the numbers that we had,” Kruithof said. “We’ve already over the last two years implemented wage and salary changes for all of the employees except for those employees under the collective bargaining unit, because we cannot unilaterally change that. But as part of our negotiation with them, we knew full well they knew what our numbers were and we never hid those from them and these were our market numbers for what police and firefighters should be receiving and that those were on the table.”

During negotiations, Kruithof said discussion was had on how to fund the new wage range, evaluate these employees, and offer wages comparable to Joplin, Pittsburg and Neosho police and firefighters.

“We spent an immense amount of time talking about that and I think broke down some barriers - trust barriers too - to make sure we’re all on the same page,” he said. “What we have is a process that establishes a market range and methodology by which we establish that market range…We’re very happy with the outcome.”

The wage bands will also help recruit, corrects wage inequities occurring over time, and is similar to bands set for all other City of Miami employees, according to Kruithof.

“To get them into that new range, it’s kind of a two-step process. The first year will be three percent increase, the second year will then be the adjustments where everybody will go into the new range system included in the contract,” he said.

Evaluation systems are built into the agreement using guidelines created by OSU for public safety officers. Although the contracts were approved for two years, by Oklahoma law the council will still need to approve the next fiscal year’s agreement again in 2017 and appropriate funds in that budget.

“I think this has given us a very good foundation. I think we stuck to our word with all of our employees where we will get everybody to their market rate. I think this shows we do have value for our police officers and our firefighters and they can know we’re valuing them like every other city in the area values their firefighters and police officers,” Kruithof said. “I frankly don’t want to be hiring and training people that will go to another area. I want them to stay in Miami.”

With retention and recruitment improvements the departments will save some training costs, according to Kruithof.

Both contracts passed by unanimous vote.

In other business, the council also discussed establishing and implementing a program to charge non Miami Special Utility Authority (MSUA) customers mitigation rates for emergency and non-emergency services by the Miami Fire Department.

Miami Fire Chief Robert Wright and Quapaw Tribe Assistant Fire Chief Leon Crow presented information and answered questions about the proposal.

If approved at a later date, non MSUA customers using emergency service while in the Miami Fire Department’s jurisdiction, including on their portion of responsibility on the Will Rogers Turnpike, would have their insurance billed for those services provided during motor vehicle incidents.

“We would like to bill the responsible party or their insurance for services rendered,” Wright said. “You know, the cost of operations go up, but the recovery of the costs doesn’t.”

Quapaw Tribe Fire/EMS, now in a auto aid agreement with Miami, has implemented such a computer software program and has recouped about $21,000, according to Crow.

“So this could be for someone on Main Street or on the Turnpike or wherever the accident may occur?” Mayor Rudy Schultz asked.

“That’s correct. They could be from Baxter or they could be from Pennsylvania, but you know the citizens of this community already pay for the service, we’d like for the responsible party to also pay their part,” Wright said.

The Miami Fire Department operations are heavily subsidized by the MSUA, according to Kruithof, and this will not affect those customers and those in those households, including business accounts.

“We’re going to have to make sure on our billing when we have a run like that, we’re going to have to make sure and check those people, and if they have no relationship to us whatsoever either in a business account or a home account, we would charge,” Kruithof said.

Crow said implementing such a program has allowed for the recoup of substantial costs, especially form interstate calls that sometimes require hours and hours of response and service.

“The thing is, our guys are not out there for 10 minutes and back on a semi wreck. They may be out there, two, three, four hours, so you’ve got all your time, costs in foam, just wear and tear on equipment,” Crow explained.

Once billed, only the insurance provided pays on the claim, no other billing or further collection attempt is made.

“So basically if the insurance covers it, you’re able to collect and if not you just let it go?” Schultz asked.

“Correct,” Crow answered.

Crow said most insurance providers pay $250 to $500 on a fire or EMS response to cover expenses.

“That’s a lot of money people leave on the table, too, that fire departments could recoup,” Crow said. “It’s really a good program.”

Both departments could invoice for services on auto aid calls.

“This is simply a discussion tonight,”Kruithof said. “We thought instead of just bringing you something we’d like to answer any questions and if you get any response form your constituency bring that and we’d like to vote on this by the end of they year.”

A property located at 216 West Central was rezoned from residential use (RS5) to Planned Urban Development (PUD) allowing the property to be used for a hair salon and spa services shop owned by Heather Lawson. Lawson is purchasing the property from Dr. Ron Gilbert and his wife Ann, who established the property as a dental office.

Lawson currently operates a salon at 105 West Steve Owens Boulevard.

Jeff Brown of Brown-Winters Funeral Home and Cremation Service agreed to honor a longstanding verbal agreement for use of the parking lot there

“With the new urbanism and new standards that are taking place right now, including the Route 66 Landing, more and more you’re seeing the idea of going back to the way things used to be when Dr. Gilbert had his dental office there. That is in a neighborhood you had homes, you had service businesses, theoretically, all within walking distances,” Kruithof said.

An amendment to Miami City Ordinance No.1495 was approved defining a dilapidated building to reflect state law.

“Basically what this is, is in going through some of our processes dealing with dilapidated buildings we found that our ordinance is not in conformity with state law,” City Attorney Ben Loring said. “There are some significant differences and so basically this change brings us into conformity with the applicable state law.”

Along this line, more discussion was made on the proposed changes to the Miami City Charter, now in its final draft stage, to eventually be brought before residents for a vote next year.

Loring said he made redline changes from the last draft version and corrected typographical errors.

“If we get it to the form you all are satisfied with, we can do the resolution calling for the election, and start presenting this, and make sure both documents are in the final form by the next council meeting,” Loring said.