The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

January 25, 2013

Conneaut firefighters OK pact

Star Beacon

CONNEAUT —  Members of Conneaut’s firefighters union have approved a three-year contract — several days after City Council beat them to the punch, members have confirmed.

Local 651 of International Association of Fire Fighters unanimously endorsed an agreement that includes a pay freeze in 2013, said Fire Station 1 Capt. Tim Zee, the local’s president. The pact includes wage reopeners in 2014 and 2015, he said.

“There’s not a whole lot of change,” Zee said.

On Jan. 14, council authorized City Manager Tim Eggleston to approve a contract with the firefighters, only to find out later the local hadn’t yet ratified the agreement. Traditionally, contracts come before council after they have been approved by the membership.

Earlier this month, council and administrators lavished praise on the firefighters, thanking them for the wage freeze and their spirit of cooperation in view of the city’s financial situation. Firefighters have said they want to preserve jobs when possible.

“I believe the contract was fair,” Zee said.

Still on the table are talks with the city’s police officers, dispatchers and service department employees. Recently, Eggleston said administrators have had only preliminary talks with those locals.

Eggleston negotiated the firefighters’ contract with the help of Law Director David Schroeder and Finance Director John Williams. No outside consultant was used, unlike three years ago when then manager Robert Schaumleffel hired a Cleveland attorney to bargain with the unions. The attorney eventually rang up a six-figure price tag that outraged council.

Schaumleffel could not be immediately reached Thursday afternoon for comment on the firefighter contract.