Contract includes raises, insurance changes

Unionized firefighters in Fort Dodge would receive roughly 4 percent annual raises, but would begin paying part of their health insurance premiums under a three-year contract to be considered by the City Council on Monday.

Members of International Association of Firefighters Local 622 have already approved the contract by a ”pretty good majority,” according to union President Tom Peart.

”I think it’s a win-win for both sides,” Peart said. ”We realize the budget problems the city is having. We were the first department in the city to agree to pay a percentage of our insurance. And the city also acknowledged that we are one of the lowest paid fire departments in the state.”

City Manager David Fierke said the contract doesn’t award the raises in exchange for the health insurance contributions.

”We don’t see the two as attached,” he said.

Fierke said the raises were included because the firefighters ranked next to last in wages when compared to those in similar Iowa cities. He added that he and Jim Voltmer, the city’s human resources director, would have pushed for the insurance contributions even if the larger-than-usual raises weren’t part of the deal.

If the council approves the contract, it will go into effect July 1 and expire June 30, 2016.

The council will consider the contract during its regular business meeting that will begin at 6 p.m. Monday in the Municipal Building, 819 First Ave. S.

Firefighters would receive 4.5 percent raises on Jan. 1, 2014, and Jan. 1, 2015; plus a 4 percent raise Jan. 1, 2016.

The city’s fiscal year begins every July 1, so the raises will be awarded midway through each fiscal year. Vollmer said awarding the raises halfway through the fiscal year reduces the impact on that year’s budget.

Fierke said revenue from the Fire Department’s ambulance service, which was started without hiring any additional firefighters, will help pay for the raises.

During the contract negotiations, the wages of city firefighters were compared to those in Bettendorf, Burlington, Clinton, Marshalltown, Mason City, Muscatine and Ottumwa.

Under the contract, firefighters will be able to continue using the current health insurance plan, but they will pay 8 percent of the premium. They will also face higher deductibles. Those deductibles are now $100 for an individual and $200 for a family. They will rise to $500 for an individual and $1,000 for a family.

The firefighters will also have the option of signing up for a high deductible health insurance plan with a health savings account. Under that option, the deductible for an individual would be $2,500 and for a family, $5,000.

The union represents 27 people including captains, lieutenants and firefighters.

Negotiations began on Oct. 9, 2012.