NAPLES, Fla. — The City of Naples has a new contract with its Fire Department, but those firefighters wonder if the new deal is enough for them to stay. Plus, the city still doesn’t have a contract with its police.
We are looking at the future of first responders in Naples.
On Wednesday, the city council approved a three-year contract with its firefighters. And even though it provides pay raises, the local union says it doesn’t address the benefits and pension issues that are causing firefighters to leave.
“The wages will help, but they’re not going to fix our issues, unfortunately,” said Chris Clissold, president of the Naples firefighters union.
Clissold said he’s seen six firefighters leave in the past year — nearly 12 percent of the department — because they can get better benefits and pensions elsewhere.
“It’s one of those things the council was unable to address,” Clissold said. “I just hope we don’t lose a lot more members from it.”
In response to Clissold, Naples mayor Teresa Heitmann said the city will look at employee pensions in the future.
“I think the new city manager will do a complete analysis of that and just confirm whether we need to change anything in our pensions,” Heitmann said.
Pensions also were the sticking point in the police department contract.
The city and the police union had agreed to a tentative deal before the city council voted it down two weeks ago.
“Once they took that vote on the cops’ contract, it pretty much showed us that we were at the end of the line — that it was a take-it-or-leave-it issue.”
Negotiations on a new police contract are ongoing. Both the police department and the city hope to have another tentative agreement for the city council to vote on at its May 2 meeting.
The new fire department contract gives firefighters a 13-percent pay increase this year, a 7-percent increase next year, and a 6-percent increase in Year 3. The starting salary for a firefighter goes up from $44,547 a year to $56,559 over the life of the contract.
Naples Fire and Rescue deputy chief of operations Corey Adamski said the contract isn’t perfect, but it will help.
“We can keep and attract members with the benefits package we have, so it’s definitely going to benefit us and the city in the long run,” Adamski said.