Chesterton Tribune



Chesterton Town Council pledges to begin bridging employee wage gaps

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The Chesterton Town Council at its meeting Monday night made its firmest pledge yet to address stagnant wages for municipal employees.

Vice-president Nate 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.

Excerpts from Kittredge’s statement:

“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 statement:

“Fiduciary 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 advisors.

“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 wages.

At the time, Williams said, no council member approached Local 4600 to talk, although since then both Lafata and then DeLaney have done so.

Williams concluded 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.



Posted 2/27/2018




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