After losing a fight over pay raises, the police union voted unanimously that the city should investigate a merger. The police union wanted 6 percent merit raises this year for officers who have not reached the top of their pay grade.But the city declared negotiations with the union at an impasse this summer and forced a new contract on police officers.
It's the second time in five years that the union has suggested the city look into a BSO merger. The 28-0 union vote comes as officials are set to begin a new round of contract discussions with officers for next year.
Sgt. Shawn Chadwick said the union raised the idea as a cost-saving possibility. He said union members do not necessarily favor a merger, but believe the city should seek a proposal to see if law enforcement could be provided more cheaply and the benefits for officers improved.
"The city thinks it's a negotiation ploy, but we're saying the city should look at options if it's in that dire of straights," he said.
City administrators opposed the raises as not financially feasible in light of the recession and declining property values. The city is considering raising tax rates 4 percent this fall to balance next year's budget.
Sheriff Al Lamberti said he is willing to send a proposal to the city, but only if city commissioners ask. Mayor Gary Resnick and other commissioners don't plan to make that request.
"I love having our own police department and have always said that," Resnick said. "We have a unique identity and having our own department is important to us."
John Fiore, leader of Wilton Manors East Neighborhood Association, agreed. He said residents would not want the small police force absorbed into a larger BSO.
"If they want to go to work for BSO, they can quit and apply to BSO," Fiore said. "Residents want their own police. They know our city, know our problems and know how to deal with the community."
Chadwick said police officers agreed to forego raises in 2009, but believed the city had promised more money this year. He said the union will file a labor relations complaint with the state over the city's decision.
In addition to no raises, Chadwick said the city-imposed contract cuts police benefits as well. The amount of holiday time drops from 12 days a year to seven and officers no longer can sell the city back unused vacation and sick time, he said.
"We are not greedy people and are not asking for the world," Chadwick said.