Council considers police pay raise tonight

MARTINEZ, Calif. – Martinez City Council will consider tonight giving its police officers an additional 8 percent raise starting July 1, while it pursues placing a revenue measure on the November ballot.

The $720,000 the 8 percent raise will cost the city will come from unallocated reserves, said Assistant City Manager Anne Cardwell in her report to the Council.

City officials are continuing closed-session discussions with Martinez Police’s nonsworn employees.

Members of the Martinez Police Officers Association (MPOA) are under a closed contract with Martinez that expires June 30, 2019, and that contract gave officers a 4 percent raise.

However, the department has been having difficulty filling vacancies and has experienced increased turnover, she wrote.

“The department has 34 funded officer positions, and currently only 29 are filled,” she wrote. Another officer is leaving this month and a second is on long-term leave.

“The department will soon only have 28 active sword personnel,” she wrote. “This has resulted in the department’s two commanders and even the police chief needing to be added to the patrol schedule.”

The vacancies also have impacted special assignments, such as community resource, which focuses on homelessness, and traffic enforcement. Often, those officers are pulled off those assignments in order to provide basic public safety services, Cardwell wrote.

Officers have said Martinez is known for providing excellent training for its officers, but because pay is not comparable, those trained officers move on to Pleasant Hill, Concord and other Bay Area cities or beyond. Some agencies are offering not only competitive pay but also hiring bonuses and other enhancements to salaries and benefits.

“The Martinez Police Department is not alone, as law enforcement officials across the country are currently struggling to fill vacancies, largely due to retirements and movement to the private sector. A national survey by the Center for State and Local Government Excellence found last year that governments are having more trouble hiring police than any other category of personnel,” Cardwell wrote.

Recently, the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) reported it was short 30 officers, and other cities historically have had trouble filling vacancies. Privately, some officers have said another factor, besides pay and some of the job’s challenges has been the public perception and attitude toward law enforcement officers.

“Agencies are scrambling to attract and retain talent, typically by enhancing their compensation packages,” Cardwell wrote. “In this climate, the city has struggled to fill vacancies, competing with surrounding agencies who are offering increasingly more attractive salary and benefit packages.”

Because of the staff shortages, the department has been relying on overtime, which Cardwell described as costly as well as a toll on employees. Therefore, overtime “is not a long-term solution to maintain services,” she wrote.

Although Martinez Police Department has been recruiting actively, many of its recent candidates have not been able to complete training or probation, which Cardwell said “is indicative of the city’s inability to effectively compete with other agencies for qualified personnel based on competitive pay.”

Lateral hires – from other agencies – “almost guarantees that the new hire will succeed as a long-term employee and is far less costly than hiring a new recruit, who will require years of training to develop into a seasoned public servant,” she wrote.

But to do that, the city needs to maintain a competitive salary, especially if Martinez expects to hire quality officers “that reflect the core values of the profession and prove to be the best fit for the Martinez community,” she wrote.

In January, the Martinez Police Officers Association asked for a 17.3 percent salary increase, even though its contract with the city wasn’t to expire in mid-2019. That increase is needed to bring the department’s pay up to the median of the current labor market for officers, Cardwell wrote.

Since then, MPOA representatives and city employees, as directed by the Council, have looked at options, and came up with a compromise 8 percent salary increase starting July 1 in exchange for moving the current contract term’s end to Jan. 31, 2019, instead of June 30, 2019. The MPOA membership approved the proposal April 22.

Tonight, the Council will decide if it, too, concurs.

Although city employees are recommending the Council allocate General Fund reserves for the pay raise, Cardwell reminded the Council that Martinez is anticipating a significant increase in costs associated with the California Public Employees Retirement Service in addition to other rising costs.

“The City Council has determined that a significant increase in revenues and/or reduction in expenditures will have to occur to maintain the city’s fiscal health,” Cardwell wrote.

That is why the Council has urged its staff to start working on a ballot measure that would increase revenue through a tax or fee.

Unless a member of the public or the Council requests the matter to be considered separately, the resolution allowing the pay raise MPOA will remain on the consent calendar, which can be approved in its entirety by a single vote.

Also on the consent calendar is the awarding of a $421,586 construction contract to Pacific Infrastructure Construction, of Vacaville, for the Reliez Valley Road Trail Spur Project and a $58,100 consulting contract to LCC Engineering and Surveying for the same project.

The Council also may amend the Capital Improvement Program and allocate $200,000 in Traffic Impact funds and allocate $194,000 of Measure J money to pay for the project.

The project would build a new trail along the west side of Reliez Vally Road from Blue Ridge Drive to Tavan Estates Drive, and install a new sidewalk on the north side of Tavan Estates Drive

The Council also will open a public hearing to hear residents’ input before final consideration of assigning a pipeline franchise to TransMontaigne, a Delaware limited partnership.

At its April 4 meeting, the Council approved a resolution on initial reading that would transfer the franchise assignment.

The pipelines are both a system of three lines west of the former Martinez Plains Terminal, 2801 Waterfront Road in the Marina Vista Avenue right of way in the area of the Interstate-680 overpass, and a portion of pipeline east of the terminal in the shoulder of Waterfront Road that enters the city at the foot of the bridge of the Union Pacific Railroad and runs east until it leaves the franchise area at the eastern city limit.

The Council also will decide whether to let the Planning Commission open its membership to one individual who lives outside the city limits but within the city’s sphere of influence. The change would not mandate that one member must live outside the city limits.

The panel also will vote on levies for its lighting and landscape districts and extending its contract with Maze and Associates for auditing services.

It will issue a proclamation about the Community Resilience Challenge East Bay and hear presentations from Feet First Foundation, Rising Sun and the California Youth Energy Services Program and recognition by the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office of Corporal Ryan Baillie for exceptional services to area crime victims.

The Council will meet at 7 p.m. today in the Council Chamber of Martinez City Hall, 525 Henrietta St.

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