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City, police guild close to agreement

It appears there are few obstacles, if any, in ongoing contract negotiations between the Sunnyside Police Officers Guild and City Manager Bob Stockwell.

Stockwell indicated to the Sunnyside City Council Monday evening that the two sides are close to reaching an accord.

"We've met and reached a strong, tentative agreement," Stockwell told the Council.

The only point of the 2005 contract negotiations that isn't yet solidified is the question of how much the city will pay into the pension fund of a police officer who has been injured on the job. Under current law, cities are not allowed to contribute to an officer's retirement fund if they were injured on the job and are collecting worker's comp payments from L&I. Once an officer returns to work, though, they have the option of making up the "lost" payments into their retirement accounts.

Currently, the city has an agreement with local firefighters to make up any lost payments into their retirement fund once they return from an injury. Both the city's and employee's shares of the contributions are paid by the city. Stockwell proposed the city includes a similar arrangement for local law enforcement officers.

Councilman Don Vlieger initially suggested that Sunnyside only pay the city's share into an officer's pension plan, citing that while recuperating from an injury an officer receives his full salary (two-third's paid by L&I and the other third by the city). But he withdrew his objection once it was pointed out that the employee contribution was only a tenth, or less, of the amount matched by the city.

The negotiations between the guild and Stockwell call for an across-the-board 3 percent pay raise for all effected officers in 2005. Under terms of the contract, the city also agrees to pay $811 a month for health insurance premiums for an officer and his family.

Once the L&I worker's comp/retirement payment detail of the negotiations has been finalized Stockwell is expected to report back to the Council for formal adoption, possibly as soon as the next regularly scheduled meeting, set for Dec. 13.

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