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Firefighters union puts new face forward in contract talks

By CHANDRA BROADWATER
Published February 22, 2007


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SPRING HILL - With a new face at the table, talks between the Spring Hill Fire Rescue District and the firefighters union began Wednesday.

New Local 2794 president Troy Hagar and vice president Scott Edmisten sat down with Chief J.J. Morrison and fire rescue district attorney Andy Salzman to outline key issues to be discussed over the coming months.

The union's current three-year contract is set to expire Sept. 30. While negotiations are usually complete before that date, they could potentially continue for months after.

"We have a lot of things going on in the department right now," Morrison said. "There might be some delays, but I hope it doesn't take until Sept. 30."

At the top of the list are the usual union concerns, which include wages, hours and benefits.

Among other points, the union would like to see new positions created for current employees to provide better advancement within the department; a reduction in weekly hours; and the best available insurance coverage at affordable prices.

While Morrison was open to the idea of new positions, he said that reducing hours could pose a threat to firefighters if not enough people are kept working on each shift.

He added that rising insurance costs will make it hard for the district to continue absorbing the increases.

Morrison and Salzman also both assured the union representatives that the final contract would be approved by fire commissioners, with no interference from Hernando County government.

After an executive session meeting with fire district commissioners Wednesday, the next negotiation meeting is tentatively scheduled for March 1 at the district administrative offices.

Spring Hill employees currently receive 5-percent annual pay increases; paid holidays, sick leave and hospitalization; and dental and optical coverage for full-time employees and their dependents.

Hagar, the new union president, replaces District Chief Mike Rampino, who served for the last four years. During that time, Hagar worked as union secretary.

A Florida native who moved to Brooksville when he was 12, Hagar has been with Spring Hill Fire for 14 years.

Local 2794 represents roughly 100 district firefighters, paramedics, dispatchers and office staff.

Chandra Broadwter can be reached at cbroadwater@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1432.

[Last modified February 21, 2007, 21:32:48]


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