A new contract for the McAlester International Association of Firefighters sparked some fiery discussion at Tuesday night’s meeting of the McAlester City Council.

The council met at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall.

Part of the contract calls for a 2.5 percent cost of living increase across the board for McAlester firefighters. The union agreed to defer the raise for six months so the city would have some time to get back on its feet finacially.

Ward Five Councilor Buddy Garvin felt the contract shouldn’t be accepted, even with the six month deferment.

“We’ve been asking the non-uniformed people to make sacrifices,” Garvin said. “We might have a guy in another department who’s worked 20 years and he’s not able to get a raise.”

Ward One Councilor Greg Rock agreed.

“If we’re living hand to mouth and we’re making cuts,” Rock said, “we don’t need to increase output monetarily to another department. It’s not the right time.”

Interim Fire Chief Harold Stewart said the raise was negotiated before the city was aware of any financial problems.

“These negotiations started months ago,” Stewart said. “I absolutely understand it’s bad timing.”

Stewart felt the contract should still be accepted by the council.

“I’m not an attorney, but it’s my understanding that since we’ve already offered this they’re going to get it anyway,” Stewart said.

“It’s kind of like not doing something we’ve promised to do.”

City Manager Susan Monroe agreed.

“I know we’re strapped, but I don’t feel like it’s right to bargain with them in good faith and then pull the rug out from under them,” Monroe said.

Stewart also pointed out that non-uniformed employees received a $75 raise earlier this year. He said the 2.5 percent raise came out to around $70 at most.

Monroe said the union was already late getting its contract. She also said it could damage the relationship with the union.

“There was not a good relationship between management and the union,” Monroe said. “Chief Stewart has done a lot to alleviate that situation.”

Monroe felt if the contract wasn’t approved it could “damage the situation we’ve taken a lot of time to rebuild.”

“It would be a big mistake not to bite the bullet on this one and come back next year,” Monroe said.

Stewart said he felt confident that if the city wasn’t in better shape in six months, the union would allow the deferrment to continue.

Rock said his vote hinged solely on the deferment. The contract was approved, with only Garvin voting no.

The contract also included:

• a maintenance increase of $35

• 1 day per month affiliation leave

• compensation time for leadership classes

• increased holiday comp time from 8 to 12 hours

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