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Council to settle issue of Zephyrhills firefighters' raise

City managers and the union agree to present their sides to the council, which is also voting on a raise for its members.

By BRADY DENNIS

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 26, 2001


ZEPHYRHILLS -- City Council members today will be called on to settle a conflict between city management and the Zephyrhills Professional Fire Fighters union.

At issue is a raise firefighters are seeking for driver/engineers at Station 2, which opened in February 2000 at 6907 Dairy Road. Union members say the driver/engineers at that station must shoulder more responsibilities because no captain is present. They also want the ones who are performing additional work to be called lieutenants.

City Manager Steve Spina offered those with lead worker status at the station a 2 percent raise, as well as retroactive pay to Oct. 1, 2000.

The union refused, saying it wanted a 3 percent raise retroactive to February 2000.

Both sides agreed to forgo a mediation or arbitration process and instead let the City Council settle the issue.

"I'll present my side, they'll present their side and council will make the decision," Spina said.

Union president Shawn Baptist couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

In other business, council members will vote today whether to give themselves a raise.

The mayor and council members make $300 per month. But Mayor Roy Burnside proposed that be raised to $400. "The city is growing, and I believe the time and expenses involved warrant this additional compensation," he wrote in a recent memo.

Also today, Spina will present to council members a draft of a citizen satisfaction survey. In a Feb. 12 meeting, council President Clyde Bracknell suggested the city fund a survey to poll citizens on their concerns about the city.

So Spina dug up a survey he did for a public administration master's class at the University of South Florida and tweaked it a little to pertain to Zephyrhills.

The rough draft consists of 24 questions, asking citizens their opinions about such things as a city civic center, a new police station, municipal taxes and their assessment of city services.

"I figure if you're going to do it, you might as well figure out all you can," Spina said. "Just by sitting at City Council, it's hard to gauge what people think."

The city plans on working with the Florida Institute of Government at USF to do the study. The estimated cost of a telephone survey, considered more accurate, is about $5,000, on top of $10,000 for analysis by professors at the institute. A mail survey would cost about $3,000.

Finally, the council will take another look today at whether to allow airport manager Jim Werme to create two new positions at the airport.

One would be to hire an operations manager while the other would make a part-time staff assistant full time.

Council members refused to approve the positions at a recent council meeting, saying that the Airport Authority had not yet approved the move. The authority approved it 4-to-1 on Feb. 19.

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