Bloomington corporation counsel on city council’s police pay resolution: “This is in some ways the council taking over the bargaining process.”

The backdrop of a city council work session on Friday was news that another Bloomington police officer had unexpectedly left the department the day before, following on the heels of a resignation the previous week.

The focus of the work session was to consider a resolution calling for increased police pay, which the council might approve at a special meeting next Wednesday.

Weighing in at the work session against the council’s resolution was the city’s corporation counsel, Philippa Guthrie, who sees it as an intrusion into the collective bargaining process between the administration and the police union.

Guthrie said, “[The resolution] is in some ways the council taking over the bargaining process.” She added, “I’m not positive, but I believe that the $5,000 figure, or whatever else you’ve got in the resolution, would have come from the police union. So in effect, you are bargaining with the police union.”

The $5,000 figure is the amount specified in the resolution as an increase in pay for all sworn officers.

The resolution is sponsored by councilmembers Dave Rollo, Susan Sandberg, and Ron Smith. [Updated on Sept. 8 at 5:32 p.m. In a joint statement released by Bloomington mayor John Hamilton and police chief Mike Diekhoff, they discouraged the idea of re-opening the collective bargaining process. However, Hamilton and Diekhoff supported the idea of increasing the recruitment and retention pool proposed in the 2022 budget from $250,000 to $500,000. The new amount would work out to roughly $5,000 per officer.  Link: Text of 2021-09-08 joint statement]

Continue reading “Bloomington corporation counsel on city council’s police pay resolution: “This is in some ways the council taking over the bargaining process.””

911 dispatchers: One-third of Bloomington-Monroe County positions vacant, 9% pay bump urged

Bloomington-Monroe County central dispatch is down 11 dispatchers compared to the budgeted number for 2021. The proposed 2022 budget calls for a 9-percent pay increase to help with retention and recruitment.

At Tuesday morning’s meeting of Bloomington and Monroe County’s five-member central dispatch policy board, assistant fire chief Jayme Washel reacted to a statement by dispatch director Amy Hensley, that the center has 11 vacant dispatcher positions.

“I don’t know for sure, but 11 sounds like an awful lot of [dispatcher] positions to be down,” Washel said. He asked for confirmation: “Is that right?”

“That’s correct,” came Hensley’s reply.

Dispatchers are the staff who answer 911 emergency calls at the central dispatch facility, located on the second floor of the downtown transit center at 3rd and Walnut streets.

Bloomington’s salary ordinance for 2021 pegs the budgeted number of dispatchers at 29. That means central dispatch for Bloomington and Monroe County currently has more than one-third fewer dispatchers than the number called for in its budget for this year. Continue reading “911 dispatchers: One-third of Bloomington-Monroe County positions vacant, 9% pay bump urged”

Monroe County’s council OKs $83.1 million “maintenance budget,” leaves compensation, justice reform for future

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Monroe County Council on budget approval night, Oct. 8, 2019. From left: Cheryl Munson, Trent Deckard, Eric Spoonmore, Shelli Yoder, Kate Wiltz, Geoff McKim, and Marty Hawk. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Monroe County now has what county councilor Geoff McKim on Tuesday night called a “maintenance budget” for 2020, which includes $83.1 million worth of expenditures. That’s about 4.8 percent more than the $79.3 million budgeted last year.

McKim said at Tuesday’s county council meeting that there are two issues not addressed in the 2020 budget, but would need attention in 2021—employee compensation and justice reform issues.

If employee compensation is not competitive in the labor market, the county needs to fund more in compensation, he said. Once the results of an in-progress criminal justice reform study come back, it would be possible to make systematic, prioritized investments for facilities and services alike, McKim said. That could require more investments in everything from mental health to the jail.

The vote on the seven-member council at Tuesday night’s meeting was 6–1, with the lone dissent coming from Marty Hawk. She said she supported almost everything in the budget, but did not support the $3.3 million general obligation (GO) bond.

The GO bond amount had been reduced by a vote of the council the night before, from $5.48 million, to the $3.3 million that appeared on Tuesday night’s proposal. Hawk made a motion Tuesday night to reduce it even more, to $2.6 million, and she had a list of the specific projects she wanted it to fund. The motion died for lack of a second.

The vote on the adoption of the budget is a separate question from the issuance of the bonds. A public hearing on the bond was held Tuesday night, but the vote on issuance was postponed until Oct. 22.

Also put off, until an unspecified time, was the purchase of property northwest of the I-69 and SR-46 interchange. The county is looking to acquire the quarry-hole-dotted land to establish a limestone heritage destination site. Continue reading “Monroe County’s council OKs $83.1 million “maintenance budget,” leaves compensation, justice reform for future”