Mission firefighter wage increases to be explored at city workshop

After 18 minutes of discussion, the Mission mayor and city council are still unsure if the supervisory positions in the fire department will receive raises and where the money will potentially be coming from to supplement those raises.

At this week’s city council meeting, the item brought up stated they would be discussing and taking action on “proposed supervisory wage increases and EMT training and certifications for the Mission Fire Department.” Council was split on the issue.

City of Mission logoMayor Pro-Tem Norie Gonzalez Garza and council members Ruben Plata and Gus Martinez are all in agreement that the FD should get some kind of raise, but Martinez was in favor of allowing it to come from a budget amendment in Oct. or early Nov. Gonzalez Garza and Plata voted for the item to be passed “not to exceed the amount of $275,000 and to be in effect Nov. 1.”

The issue with this was there was no way of knowing where the money for these raises and trainings will come from other than the city’s general fund.

Because of this uncertainty, Martinez voted to wait on the issue until a workshop could be held in order to meet with Robert Lopez, President of the Mission Firefighters Union.

“We owe it to them, and we should find it [money],” said Martinez. “If we have to do a budget amendment or think about this a couple of months down the road, then I’m okay with that, and I believe the union is as well.”

Mayor Armando O’caña and council member Jessica Ortega-Ochoa were against the item passing as it was proposed by Gonzalez Garza, because they wanted to work with the union and meet in the middle, ensure all firefighters get a raise (rather than just supervisory positions) and find room in the existing funds without operating in a deficit or unbalanced budget.

“I’m willing to close the gap, as you all [the Firefighter’s Union] have instructed, with the salaries and benefits, as long as it does not jeopardize our healthy budget,” Ortega-Ochoa said. “I would like to amend the budget after we have a workshop discussing exactly what you all want.”

“I’m not opposed for the firemen, I’m opposed because the money [in the proposed motion by Gonzalez Garza] is going to be taken from the general fund balance,” O’caña added. “And until we’re fiscally responsible for that part, then I will vote in favor of any and all raises, including the minimum wage.”

Martinez also brought up that he did not want the funds to come from the general fund in the event that the city needs that money for drainage issues.

“A budget amendment can happen immediately after we close on this year’s budget,” Martinez said. “I think we’re better off just agreeing that we owe them the money and we’ll get them the money as soon as we can.”

Ortega-Ochoa and Martinez both stated they wanted the workshop to happen in a timely manner.

“I would like a workshop as soon as possible,” said Ortega-Ochoa. “Mr. Lopez will be there to guide us on what the majority of the union wants.”

This is following a similar workshop held last Tues., where council discussed the proposed wage increases and no date has been set for the workshop yet.

During the consent agenda a contract renewal for one year with Exclusive Designs for athletic league uniforms for the Boys & Girls Club was pulled by Gonzalez Garza for further deliberation. Gonzalez Garza wanted the city to go out for bids instead of renewing the contract in order to find a more cost-effective company.

Gonzalez Garza made a motion to deny the authorization, which was seconded by Plata and voted in favor of by Martinez. Ortega-Ochoa voted against the motion, because she said Exclusive Designs was already the cheapest option and there may not be time to get the new uniforms in before the new year.

After the vote had been made, Martinez tried to change his mind so the organization could have uniforms in time for the new year, and said the city could reassess the contract next year. It was too late to change the vote, so the contract was initially denied.

At the end of the meeting, however, City Attorney Abiel Flores did research and found that although it was already voted on, a council member could invoke one of Robert’s Rules of Order and put the item back on the table as long as it was an item discussed in the same meeting. Martinez made a motion to reconsider.

Boys & Girls Club Director Juan Arevalo then stated that the new uniforms were needed in 17 days.

“You should have been here three months ago, brother,” said Gus Martinez to Arevalo. “17 days? And now you’re bringing up a renewal? You’re trying to push it through? No. You should have been here in June.”

“That’s unacceptable,” Gonzalez Garza added. “A notice for all directors: if you have a contract coming up, please be here 90 days before the contract is going to come up. Do not put us in a situation where it’s 17 days before the contract is going to renew and want us to actually discuss it.”

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