The Chesterton Town
Council at its meeting Monday night made its firmest pledge yet to address
stagnant wages for municipal employees.
Cobbs, R-4th, read a statement prepared by President Lloyd Kittredge,
R-2nd--who was himself unable to attend the meeting--and was followed by
Member Jim Ton, R-1st, who read a statement of his own. Member Emerson
DeLaney, R-5th, then spoke as well.
The gist of those
remarks: the ad hoc Salary Study Group--comprised of Member Dana Lafata,
Clerk-Treasurer Stephanie Kuziela, and Town Manager Bernie Doyle--is making
real progress and could have an amended Salary Ordinance to bring to the
council for action this spring; although all municipal employees are in need
of raises, the wages of public safety employees--in particular of the 1st
Class Police Officer’s position--require the most urgent attention; those
raises must be scaled as much as possible to prevailing wages in the “market
area”; and they must be sustainable.
Mention was made as
well--in Kittredge’s statement--about unacceptably provocative comments made
on social media and the need to bring civility to the discussion.
Members made their
remarks to a meeting room jammed with municipal employees, and two weeks
after CPD Lt. Joe Christian made his second appearance before the council
requesting action on raises.
“I believe, as I
think the rest of the council members do, that there is an unacceptable gap
in police pay in our Porter County market area, particularly concerning the
1st Class Officer’s position. The information we are acquiring now is not
only how to bridge the gap for this year but how to make it sustainable in
the future. Clearly, this is a priority, but we must also address pay for
the remainder of our highly valued town employees. I believe things are
progressing well and hopefully in March, or at the latest April, we can take
action on this, which will be governed by the availability of funds.
“I know we have
lost a few officers over the year due in whole or in part to their seeking
out greener pastures in the form of better pay, and I would never begrudge
anyone for seeking what they believe is a better opportunity. What we want
to do is hopefully keep these isolated incidents down in the future, take
care of our own, and also be more attractive to future police prospects. . .
“Finally, it is
important to remind everyone that healthy, respectful dialogue on matters of
public interest is good. It is disheartening that a few have seen fit to
resort to name-calling along with making vulgar and vile comments. I doubt
that anyone on this council would associate with those who believe that this
is the proper way to have public discussions. I would personally disavow
comments of the type I have seen that have no place in an intelligent, civil
discourse, and would hope others do the same.”
Excerpts from Ton’s
responsibility requires the town to give raises that are maintainable in the
future. Input into identifying additional funds for needed raises has been
obtained and is continuing to be obtained, including input from financial
“I served for over
a decade as a CPD Police Commissioner. The first basic lesson I learned was
that recruitment, retention, and retirement are priorities. Recruiting new
qualified officers is tied to salaries the town pays. Retaining good
officers depends on the salaries the town pays. And retirement benefits are
tied to the salaries earned.
“I want to be very
clear, when this council is presented (either in March or April as stated)
with an amended salary ordinance that provides maintainable, material salary
increases with a focus on police salaries, it will have my total support.”
DeLaney, for his
part, echoed Kittredge and Ton on the issue of sustainability and on the
pressing need to bridge gaps in the wages of public safety employees. “My
view is that public safety has the biggest disparity and we need to address
that immediately,” he said. “We’re looking at all the salaries but our
emphasis right now is public safety.”
IAFF Local 4600
Earlier in the
meeting, CFD Engineer Steve Williams--and president of International
Association of Fire Fighters Local 4600, representing the CFD’s career
firefighters--spoke from the floor about what he sees as members’
unresponsiveness to an invitation made in November to meet with Local 4600
reps and discuss matters of interest to its members, including stagnant
At the time,
Williams said, no council member approached Local 4600 to talk, although
since then both Lafata and then DeLaney have done so.
his remarks by noting that, hard though it is for him to believe, he had a
longer discussion with a sitting U.S. Senator, Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.--when
the latter came to visit Chesterton and the two met at Round the Clock--than
he’s ever had with any council member.