EAST PEORIA — The East Peoria City Council approved on second reading Tuesday a three-year contract with its police union that awarded its 47 members with higher scheduled raises than any other city employee.
The raises of 2 percent, 2.5 percent and 2.5 percent over the three years of the contract were approved by an arbitrator after an impasse was called last summer when city negotiators didn't compromise on their offer of annual raises of 1.5 percent. The police had been without a contract for 17 months, and the new one lands and a time of big financial challenges for the city.
Commissioner Gary Densberger voted against the contract.
"I believe the (police) union has shown a ... lack of understanding of the city's financial situation and a disregard of the well-being of the city as a whole and the other bargaining units we deal with," Densberger said. "I think that is regrettable and I hope we can find a way to improve that."
The vote cut the same way it did three weeks ago with Mayor David Mingus and Commissioners Dave Decker and Tim Jeffers supporting the contract and Densberger and Commissioner John Kahl voting in opposition to the contract.
The contract is retroactive to May 1, 2016, and will expire in 2019. The city recently agreed to three-year contracts with 1.75 percent raises for employees in the fire and public works departments and with emergency dispatchers. The police union never agreed to 1.75 percent raises for the police and the city withdrew the offer, leaving the arbitrator to consider only the city's 1.5 percent offer and the union's position of 2 percent-plus.
There was some discussion Tuesday about challenging the arbitrator's decision to side with the police union's offer. But city attorney Dennis Triggs described the challenge basically as a fool's errand. The first phase of a challenge would be persuading the arbitrator to change his mind. If that failed, the city could appeal in court, absorbing all the costs along the way, and for a dubious result.
"The chances of the arbitrator changing his mind are negligible. Almost never happens. Almost nil," Triggs said. "Our chances in court would be significantly better, but still very slim. Not challenging does not mean we agree with the arbitrator or that we don't think his logic was flawed."
Densberger agreed that a challenge was too risky.
"It would be a poor gamble and right now we don't have a lot of money to gamble," he said.
In other business, the council changed the name of Silver Street to Columbia Street in a move not as arbitrary as it might initially appear. Silver Street is located off of South Main Street and runs to the northwest for 235 feet before it becomes Columbia Street at a turn in the road. The street runs behind the South Main Street shopping center and connects South Main to East Washington Street next to the Public Safety Building.
"(Changing from Silver to Columbia) creates confusion with deliveries and other trying to locate Columbia Street," reads the description of Tuesday's council agenda item. "There are no properties addressed with a Silver Street address. It makes sense to change the name of Silver Street to Columbia Street to eliminate this confusion."
The measure passed 5-0.
Scott Hilyard can be reached at 686-3244 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @scotthilyard on Twitter.