Portland council to vote on police contract, zoning; delays bulk waste discussion
PORTLAND — The City Council is expected to act on a collective bargaining agreement with the union for high-ranking police officers at its Wednesday, Feb. 22, meeting.
The council is also scheduled to vote on a proposed zoning amendment that may encourage new development on West Commercial Street.
But it has again put off a decision about restoring public bulk waste removal service.
Councilors will likely approve a new contract with the Police Superior Officers Benevolent Association, said the union's president, Lt. Gary Hutcheson. PSOBA represents 31 police captains, lieutenants, and sergeants.
The contract, which was negotiated for the 2011 calendar year, calls for a 1 percent salary increase over 2010, Hutcheson said. If approved, officers will receive retroactive pay dating to January 2011.
But the contract has already expired, Hutcheson said. After councilors approve, the union will begin negotiations with the city for a new contract for 2012.
The 1 percent raise was suggested by the city, Hutcheson said. It's less than a typical annual raise for police officers, he said, but after receiving no raise last year, the union did not seek a larger hike because of the city's continued financial squeeze.
“We accepted their offer,” he said. “We didn't say we wanted a raise. They came out and said 'This is what we're offering.'”
The contract also calls for an increase in the officer's uniform allowance – officers must purchase their own boots, and suits for court appearances – from $200 to $250. The cost of the wage and uniform allowance increases to the city will be nearly $24,500, according to a memorandum from employee relations manager Thomas Caiazzo to the council.
While the agenda for Wednesday's council meeting lists the second reading of an amendment to the city's garbage removal program that would allow residents to buy tags for curbside pickup of bulky waste, that item will be postponed until the council's March 19 meeting, according to Public Services Director Michael Bobinsky.
The amendment received a first reading last August, but has been under review ever since and has not yet been revisited in a council meeting.
There is no public curbside pick up service for large items in Portland. Property owners with an “e-card” may bring 10 bulky items to the Riverside Recycling Center for free each year, and anyone may dispose of large items at the center for a fee.
The system makes it difficult for tenants and property owners who do not have access to e-cards or trucks to dispose of bulky items, Bobinsky said in a letter to councilors in August. This lack of access “increases the likelihood that people will dump bulky items on the curb in violation of the city's ordinances,” he said.
The city's solid waste task force last year recommended a tag system to prompt the city's return to public bulky waste removal. The task force recommended that the Department of Public Services sell bulky waste tags on the web and at its office at 55 Portland St.
Residents would then affix the tags to large items and leave them for pick-up on normal garbage collection days from the start of the program through November. The task force recommended that tags cost $7.50; very large items like couches may require more than one tag.
The proposal calls for regular garbage compacting trucks to pick up items under 30 pounds, and separate trash haulers to retrieve larger items like furniture, Bobinsky said.
The city put out a call for bids for large-item haulers and received only one bid, he said. The city's review of that bid has been partially responsible for the delay in the Public Services Department's presentation of the amendment to the council, Bobinsky said.
While city documents say that the tag fee would cover the cost of operating the program, Councilor Ed Suslovic said implementing public bulky waste removal would increase the city's costs.
“My biggest concern is whatever we do, we've got to be able to do it,” Suslovic said. “If we do bulky item pick up, we've got to be clear what other services are going to be reduced. My view is if we're going to add more work to them, we've got to add more resources, or reduce other services.”
The council will vote Wednesday on a zoning amendment to change the area between 113 and 201 West Commercial St. from a Waterfront Port Development zone to a Mixed Commercial Use zone.
The amendment, proposed by Portland development company J.B. Brown & Sons, would allow Brown to build office buildings up to 55 feet tall in some places and market the property to a wider range of potential tenants, J.B. Brown President Vincent Veroneau has said.
The proposal has been an issue of contention for neighbors, who fear that the 55-foot building limit would be too high, and new buildings could block views and lower property taxes.