HANFORD — On the heels of a proposed salary raise for several city employees, firefighters and citizens alike showed their support for the local firefighters union.
Members of the Hanford Professional Firefighters Local 3898 have been working without a contract for almost two years, with members saying the city is trying to reduce salary and benefits for firefighters by using a bad salary study and refusing to compromise with the union.
At the Hanford City Council meeting on Tuesday, firefighter Jared Turner and seven citizens spoke to Council in solidarity with the union. The comments came on the same night Council was to vote on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Executive Management Employees Association.
The executive management employees include the parks and recreation director, finance director, community development director, public works director, utilities and engineering director, fire chief and police chief.
The MOU on the table with the executive management team included a 2.5 percent wage increase for all members, which will cost the general fund roughly $111,000 in the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
Throughout the last year-and-a-half of contract negotiations with the firefighters union, Turner said the city has not filled open firefighter positions, leading to dangerous situations for both firefighters and citizens.
“The 2.5 percent raise for the management positions would cost taxpayers approximately $110,000 per year. Coincidentally, the cost of adding a new firefighter position to the fire department would cost roughly the same,” Turner said. “However, the fire department has not seen an increase in daily staffing since 1989.”
Because they can’t come to an agreement with the city, the firefighters continue to be paid under the terms of their previous contract, which ended in July 2016. Turner said the contract the union is proposing would not cost taxpayers any additional money for fire services.
“We are not asking for a raise,” Turner said. “We have offered a $0, multi-year contract multiple times.”
Turner said if the Council does not want to agree to the union’s terms, then they need to find a way to move forward with negotiations as soon as possible.
City Manager Darrel Pyle said there are five bargaining units that represent 257 city employees who operate under MOUs.
Pyle said the Council sets policy direction for how the MOUs should be negotiated and includes negotiating compensation in compliance with a salary study the city had completed by Bryce Consulting. The comparable cities the study used were Porterville, Visalia, Tulare, Kings County and Madera.
“Every bargaining unit, including your executive management bargaining unit, has bargained to the Bryce study,” Pyle said.
John Doyel, utilities and engineering director, spoke during public comment because he said he wanted to clear up misinformation.
“First of all, we didn’t come to you with our hands out saying ‘give us more’,” Doyel said. “The City Council adopted a policy that they pay the mean of five cities that we compare to, and you’re paying that mean to all of your employees.”
Doyel said the city maintains the policy across the board and doesn’t favor any type of employee over another. He said all the employees would like to complain about the comparable cities because many of them don’t have the same departments that Hanford does.
Doyel said people should understand that if the city changes the comparable cities for one bargaining group, they have to do it for every bargaining group, which could cost more. He said he appreciated the Council for establishing a policy and treating all employees the same in an effort to be economically responsible.
“Everybody has to understand, we’re all part of the same team,” Doyel said.
In response to Doyel’s comments, Fire Capt. David Sumaya said he agreed that the city should have a policy, but said it wasn’t right that out of five comparable cities, only two truly compared to Hanford in regards to fire department positions.
“The fire department totally agrees with comparisons, but let’s compare apples to apples,” Sumaya said. “We’re just asking for a fair shake. We’re not asking for anything special.”
When it was time to vote on the MOU for the executive management team, council voted 4-1 in favor of agreeing to the terms of the MOU, with Councilwoman Diane Sharp being the only “no” vote.
The new MOU will start July 1 and end on June 30, 2020.
Mayor David Ayers said negotiations are difficult and it’s important for both parties to do the best they can to come to an agreement.
“Our goal here through this process was to make sure that we treated everybody fairly and ethically, and I think this policy has correctly done that without showing bias or prejudice against any one particular group,” Ayers said.
The MOU with the executive management team is the fourth of the five units to come to an agreement with the city. The fire department is the only bargaining unit that doesn’t have a contract.
Vice Mayor Sue Sorensen said the Council and city fully support the fire department, especially with a new station on the way, and looks forward to coming to an agreement.
LEMOORE — A representative of the Kings County Association of Governments gave a presentation at Lemoore’s and Hanford’s study sessions Tuesday about the different scenarios available for the regional transportation plan.
Kendall Flint, the outreach task manager of Regional Government Services, raced through the different scenarios in 10 minutes at the Lemoore City Council before rushing out to make it to Hanford’s City Council to do the same presentation.
Flint said the goal for the plan is to have a shared vision among the cities and county, be financially sound, emphasize existing systems of transit, prioritize projects and follow state and federal laws and rules.
KCAG presented four different scenarios that could be the prioritization of projects for the regional transportation plan.
The scenarios focus on ride-sharing (carpool, bus, taxi, etc.), alternative fuel vehicles like electric cars, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, increasing traffic signals and mixed-use and infill development for land use of existing communities.
Flint said the plan does not dictate how money will be spent nor does it mean each city has to do the same thing as the other.
KCAG have scheduled two workshops where community members can learn more about the scenarios and provide input.
More information about the regional transportation plan can be found at www. kingsregionalvision.com.