Tallmadge -- City Council voted Dec. 13 to adopt an updated three-year contract with the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2764.
The agreement replaces the two-year contract that expires Dec. 31, 2012. The new agreement is effective Jan. 1, 2013, to Dec. 31, 2015.
"It was a great negotiation time ... precedent setting," said Mayor Dave Kline. "We went in without our attorneys. They went in without theirs. We sat at a table and after two meetings we had it done. They were very cooperative, and so was the city ... It's a good contract for the residents of Tallmadge, and the firemen are happy and the [city] administration is happy."
"It seemed to be a smooth process this year," said John Underwood, president of the firefighters union at the fire department. "We have yet to have our final vote, but in passing everyone seems to be in favor of it."
Kline said the city usually hires an outside attorney to represent it in labor negotiations, but to save money this year the city represented itself and union stewards represented themselves. He said this change in strategy saved the city about $50,000 in legal fees.
Just as with the contracts Council adopted last month for employees in the police, street, water and sewer departments, the full-time firefighters' agreement includes 2 percent wage increases. The raises will cost the city $18,500 each year of the new contract, said Kline.
The contract also includes a continuation of the city's policy for health care, which is that union members pay 50 percent of any increase in health insurance premiums for each year of the contract, until a cap is reached. The new contract will result in union members paying an average of 12 percent of the total cost of the health insurance premium, with the city picking up the balance of the tab.
According to the rates the city has negotiated with its health insurance company, a union member who has single coverage will pay $26.99 per pay period, while two-person coverage is $54.28 and family coverage is $79.42.
The agreement also stipulates that two firefighters can be off work, such as on vacation or out sick, at once, as long as utilizing replacements for the absent workers doesn't require the fire department to pay overtime. Because the fire department already was practicing this process, Kline said the language was added to the contract to reflect that.
The fire department has 10 full-time firefighters and is authorized to have 11, Kline said.
The agreement for the 45 part-time fire fighters is due to expire at the end of next year.