Largo Fire Fighters Reject City's 'Best and Final' Offer
By Leo Coughlin
Largo - The fire fighters union rejected Largo's "best and final offer" in a unanimous vote last week and issues on a new contract now go to a special magistrate.
Henry Schubert, an assistant city manager, said Tuesday that a special magistrate had not been scheduled yet. "The union has requested returning to the bargaining table. I have not responded yet to their request," Schubert said.
If recommendations made by the special magistrate are rejected, the contract, in negotiation since last summer, then goes to the City Commission for final resolution.
Unlike non-governmental unions, the International Association of Fire Fighters does not have the instrument of work stoppage at its disposal. Striking is really the only weapon a union has.
At Tuesday night's commission meeting a loan not to exceed $10 million to fund the new community center was approved.
As outlined by Kim Adams, the city's finance director who has made careful and shrewd deals for the city over the years, TD Bank, NA was one of five institutions responding to the city's request for proposal on the loan.
TD Bank, NA is an American bank operating in a dozen states (including Florida) and the District of Columbia. It is part of Toronto-Dominion Bank of Canada.
In a memo supporting his report, Adams said that the loan will have a stated interest rate of 3.443 percent and proceeds will be drawn as needed during the construction period. This is typical of a construction loan.
It will be repaid in quarterly installments beginning next January and completing in October 2019. Total interest cost is put at $1,745,902.57. Financing for the loan is coming from Penny for Pinellas funds which, according to county officials, will be down from earlier expectations because of the economic situation.
Under terms of the loan, the city is required to maintain an interest bearing money market account with the bank with a principal amount of 15 percent of the outstanding balance. That means the city has to put up $1,500,000 to begin with.
On the negotiations with the fire fighters, which now apparently are terminated pending a hearing before the special magistrate, the union requested that the city explain its position on "outstanding issues" which was answered sharply by Schubert in a letter February 1.
Schubert wrote Will Murphy, secretary/treasurer of the local union chapter, and described the request as "shocking."
"I have spent many hours over many bargaining sessions explaining the city's position," Schubert said. "Additional explanation is not needed and will not be forthcoming," Schubert wrote.
He said that "My explanations have been thorough and consistent with emphasis on the current state of the economy and the city's financial position both today and projected over the next few years."
Schubert said in that letter that if the union membership fails to ratify the city's "best and final offer," he would declare impasse, sending the matter to the special magistrate.
With the union's unanimous rejection, that has now happened.
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