HUNTINGTON — Members of Huntington City Council unanimously approved a new contract for the union representing the city’s firefighters Monday, locking in 12% pay raises over the next three years.
They also approved a sewer revenue bond anticipation note for the Huntington Water Quality Board, which will fund projects to alleviate flooding and other issues around the city.
Last month, members of the International Association of Firefighters Local 289 voted to ratify a three-year contract with the city that includes 12% pay increases with health insurance, deductibles, co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses maintained at current levels.
Chris Slaughter, the outside attorney who represented the union during contract negotiations, said support for the ratified contract was “very favorable,” although he did not know the final vote tally from union members.
The contract was applied retroactively because it begins July 21, 2019, and ends June 30, 2022. A 5% base rate increase will go into effect in the first year of the contract and firefighters will receive back pay for that time period. In the second year, firefighters will receive a 4% base rate increase, and a 3% increase in the contract’s final year.
The new contract eliminates training incentives written into the previous contract because firefighters are required to have that training regardless. That previous wage scheme was also confusing to administer at times, Slaughter said.
In addition to the wage increases, the new contract sets minimum staffing requirements necessary to respond to emergencies. It is now required to have a minimum of 21 fire captains, 16 lieutenants, four deputy chiefs and 24 firefighters on staff. It also requires eight frontline fire apparatuses in service.
The contract will also establish an independent board to manage the fund for retired firefighters’ health insurance, similar to a pension board. Slaughter said the city would aim to get the board active by the end of the contract’s second year in 2021.
Council members also unanimously approved a sewer revenue bond anticipation note for the Water Quality Board, which will help fund $6.2 million in projects around the city to alleviate flooding and other issues.
Those projects include: construction of a sludge loadout facility near Westmoreland; a project to bypass ruptured lines at Kinetic Park; a plan to clean out a 61-year-old interceptor line; a pump station project to alleviate flooding at the 8th Street and 10th Street underpasses; and a check valve project to stop the flow of river water into the city wastewater system.
Council members previously approved the Water Quality Board to seek funding for the projects, anticipating a 3% interest rate. However, the board was able to secure a loan with a fixed interest rate of 2.03%. That rate will be on a draw-down basis, meaning the Water Quality Board will only repay the loan when revenue comes in.