Urbana police officers receive wage increase

The Urbana City Council approved a collective bargaining agreement with the Urbana Police Department at its general meeting Monday.

The approved agreement will give the Urbana Lodge 70 Illinois Fraternal Order of Police a three year contract retroactive July 1, 2010 and expire on June 30, 2013. The contract will give officers a one percent wage increase the first year and a three percent increase the second and third year.

Urbana Police Chief Patrick Connolly said he is glad the negotiations are over and that the department’s focus can now solely be on improving safety in Urbana. Making the bargaining agreement was a year-long process. Mayor Prussing praised the police department’s work during the session.

And while the vote was unanimous, some aldermen questioned the decision. Brandon Bowersox, Ward 4, said this is an agreement that will cost taxpayers because the city’s budget is tight; fortunately, he said property taxes will not be altered to help pay for these raises.

“Giving raises is something I wish we didn’t have to do at this time,” Bowersox said.

Connolly said he agrees with his comments, but added that the decision also weighed into the negotiations.

“The officers understand we were trying to reach a balance between police and their families and what the economic constraints are,” Connolly said.

Along with the bargaining agreement, the council voted in favor of the purchase of a new street sweeper and an amendment to the zoning ordinance and adding a section about portable storage containers. These two ordinances were originally sent to committee two weeks ago after the council voted to have the items revised.

However, Charlie Smyth, Ward 1, said the public works department should look into alternatives to extending a street sweeper’s lifespan from 10 to 15 years, such as improving maintenance.

The council also approved an ordinance amending the city budget to add the grant the city received from the Illinois Arts Council. Urbana was awarded $3,500 from the council to assist the Urbana Public Arts program.