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DANGEROUS WORK: City Council votes to bring fire and police pay closer to the average Missouri household income.
SBJ photo by Wes Hamilton
DANGEROUS WORK: City Council votes to bring fire and police pay closer to the average Missouri household income.

City Beat: City approves police, fire pay raises

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Negotiations between city officials and union representatives resulted in pay increases for Springfield police officers and firefighters in each of the next two years.

City Council members on June 18 unanimously supported separate collective bargaining agreements with the Springfield Police Officers Association and the Southern Missouri Professional Firefighters Local 152. Both amendments fund merit steps for all ranks, said city Human Resources Director Darla Morrison.

In amending the current union agreement for the Springfield Police Department signed July 1, 2017, officers and corporals are in line for a 3 percent pay increase in two phases – half effective July 8 and the rest effective Jan. 6, 2019. Morrison said the parties agreed to a 1 percent increase for sergeants in the top step of their salary grade.

For example, she said the new officer pay rate upon completing the six-month police academy will be $38,143 per year.

“This amendment outlines the agreed upon economic package to reflect pay improvements in fiscal year 2019,” she told council before the vote.

Councilwoman Kristi Fulnecky said she supported the pay hikes to make the tough jobs in the city more attractive to new hires.

“The pay is so important for recruiting people,” she said before registering her vote of approval. “The last I looked at the U.S. census, the average annual household income in Missouri was around $45,000. And we’re paying $35,000 to $38,000 for people who are getting shot at and running into burning buildings. This is such an important job – your life is on the line. I really think we need to get up to the median household income or greater in the future.”

According to the agreed upon economic package, salary increases will be partially funded by savings from police recruit uniform expenses in fiscal 2018. The amendments to the agreement with the police union are effective through June 30, 2020, according to the bill.

With the firefighters’ union, city officials agreed to provide a 2 percent pay increase for fire captains in 2018, for example, to $45,571 a year from $44,678 annually. In 2019, Morrison said the agreement spells out a 3.56 percent salary increase to the top step for all fire union ranks.

However, Morrison said starting firefighter pay would go unchanged at $34,046 a year.

She said both unions ratified the respective bargaining agreements last week following several meetings with city staff in recent months.

Liquor license
Council members picked up on a bill tabled at the June 4 public hearing that sought to expand the liquor license at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds.

Fair board representative Kent Hyde spoke at the recent meeting to explain the request by the Greene County Agricultural and Mechanical Society Inc., which governs the fairgrounds. Already, liquor by the drink can be purchased in the E-Plex and grandstand, the patio in front of the E-Plex, the arena and its annex, and the BootDaddy grill and enclosed patio deck, he said.

“This would add a couple of spaces … and at other events that aren’t part of the fair,” said Hyde, an attorney with Hyde, Love & Overby LLP. “We’re up to over 100 a year.”

At those events, fairground operators would like the option to serve alcohol anywhere within its perimeter fencing, bordered on three sides by Norton Road, Grant Avenue and Smith Street, as well as the Dickerson Park Zoo parking lot line to the west.

Council members unanimously approved the request, now allowing alcohol sales in the remodeled Stockyard Smokehouse, formerly the Rudy’s barbecue building, and all outdoor areas on the premises.

Previously, events such as the Rotary clubs’ Rock’n Ribs had to obtain picnic licenses for one-time approvals of alcohol sales.

Before their affirming votes, council members noted the $30 million annual economic impact generated by the fair and fairgrounds events.

“Maybe the city can expect some economic return for expanding this area,” Councilman Richard Ollis said.

Hyde said yes, pointing to one group on the calendar, a national association for trappers.

“They’ll basically occupy the whole grounds. It’s tens of thousands of people, from all over the United States and Canada,” he said. “There are a lot of events like that.

“To keep that place improved and to take care of it, you have to do a lot more than have a fair.”

Because of the fairground’s proximity to another business with a liquor license, city code stipulates the fairgrounds must gross $50,000 in annual food sales to retain its license. Also, minors will be permitted on premises when alcohol is being consumed, so long as the fairgrounds maintains 40 percent of sales from food prepared on-site, according to the code.

Alcohol has been sold under restrictions at the fairgrounds since 2012, when the current lease agreement was signed with the city. Hyde said the fairgrounds has a $3 million liability policy to cover insurance concerns related to alcohol.

Other business
• Council appointed Assistant City Manager Collin Quigley as interim city manager for the month of July, after Greg Burris vacates the position and before Jason Gage arrives at City Hall on Aug. 1.

• The $2.5 million Jefferson Avenue Footbridge renovation project got the green light by a 7-1 vote. Councilwoman Jan Fisk was absent.

Before registering the lone no vote, Councilwoman Fulnecky said it’s “a lot of money for a pedestrian footbridge,” and there are other transportation needs in the city.

The bulk of the funding for the Commercial Street improvement comes from $2 million in federal transportation grants, with the remainder in local sales tax revenues.

• As expected, the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau’s $3.57 million annual budget and marketing plan was approved as was an $85,350 budget for the Greater Springfield Area Sports Commission to promote sporting events.

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