Watertown to pay nearly $1M to firefighters

wwny Watertown to pay nearly $1M to firefighters

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Back in June, an arbitrator awarded a salary increase for Watertown Firefighters of 1.5 percent for 2014-2015 and a 2.5 percent increase for 2015-2016.

City Comptroller James Mills says the city has been setting money aside since 2014.

"Ever since the end of the past contract, every budget year we estimated how much a routine increase to their union contract would be so that the funds would be there the day became due," he said.

That day is August 28. The amount of back pay and taxes the city has to pay is close to $1 million. The payment catches up the union contract for wages until June 30, 2016. The city will also have to pay about $225,000 next year for retirement.

"This retroactive payment they will receive this week catches up those two years plus the years since so that they have been payed now overtime at the 2016 contract rates. It catches up as though they have been paid at the 2016 rates all along," said Mills.

It's not all good news for the fire department. The arbitrator's award includes increased health insurance costs for firefighters from 12 to 14 percent and that money is deducted from the back pay. Still, the fire union's president says the payout is more than he expected.

"I thought the number was going to be in the $700,000 range. However, I didn't factor in all the overtime," said Dan Daugherty, president of the Watertown Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 191.

Daugherty says the checks will be available on August 28 at the fire department on South Massey street. Firefighters can pick them up or they will be mailed.

"This is what we got. Are we over the moon with it? No. It's less than we asked for, but we do believe it's fair," he said.

Daugherty says the union has not been contacted by city to start negotiations for 2016 to the present.

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