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City, firefighters hoping to reach deal ahead of election

Even with early voting underway, the city is still pursuing a last-minute deal with its firefighter’s union. The city and firefighters say they’re working as hard as possible to reach a deal before the May 9 general election.

“(We want) something that acknowledges the good work (firefighters) do,” said Fire Chief Samuel Pea. “But also something that’s respectful of the taxpayer. Because really, that’s who pays our wages, and who we’re here to serve.”

As negotiations go down to the wire, the cost of pay and benefits has dominated the discussion. City Manager Tommy Gonzalez said that with the firefighter’s proposal, “On a house valued at $124,192, that would be approximately $57.63 over that three year period.”

In comparison, he said, “The city’s referendum, if people voted for that, would be $4.81.”

Both sides expect negotiations to continue right up to the date of the general election. One unexpected problem: a provision on the ballot for rehabing firefighters who test positive for drugs.

“If a person is rehabbed once,” said Ann Morgan Lily, city rep for District 1. “And then goes out and gets on drugs again, we have to rehab that same person?”

“The language,” said city attorney Sylvia Firth. “As presented, does allow for the opportunity for there to be more than one rehabilitation.”

But the firefighters say that’s not what they want either.

“In my mind it is not,” Pea said. “In my mind it is not a good thing. It’s not — you know, my primary function is to ensure the health and safety of our personnel. That includes making sure that the people – our employees who show up for work are 100% not under the influence.”

ABC-7 has compiled a comparison between the fire association’s proposals, what the city proposed on the ballot and their latest offer. You can see the numbers for yourself here:

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