Despite meeting snafu, Marco police union negotiations progressing

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle
Police Chief Al Schettino, left, and acting City Manager Gil Polanco talk with PBA negotiators on Aug. 28. Union negotiations were supposed to continue on Sept. 10 but a scheduling mishap limited further discussions.

A scheduling error may have limited bargaining discussions between the police union and the city of Marco Island Monday, but both sides are not far from a new agreement.

The union and city management were supposed to meet Monday morning in the City Hall conference but the location was also booked for a city director's meeting.

While the director's meeting prevented the union from sitting down with acting City Manager Guillermo Polanco, Chief Al Schettino sat down with officers and union representatives to recap some of the latest happenings.

Schettino informed the union of the city looking at setting millage at roll-back, which could inhibit the increases in compensation that both sides were looking for.

More:The issue is retention: Police union, city work to negotiate new agreement

More:Police union proposes pay step plan as Marco Island contract negotiations begin

At its current salaries, the Marco Island Police Department is one of the lowest paid agencies in South Florida.

The low pay and lack of knowledge of what salaries could look like in the future has impacted the department's ability to retain officers.

The vast majority of officers earn well below the minimum sustainable wage for Collier County, which stands at $66,000 for a family of four. A recent job posting for the police department started at $41,612.

As part of its initial proposals, the union proposed implementing a step pay plan that would not only improve overall compensation but help officers plan for the future.

Prior to Monday's meeting, Schettino had expressed support for implementing the step plan and did so again.

"It's going to come down to compensation," Schettino said. "One of the things in my conversations I'm saying to the city manager is how important it is have that step system in the contract. Keep in mind that the contract runs for three years but I think it's important to embed that step plan into the contract."

As for other elements of the contract, Schettino and Police Benevolent Association President Matt Sellers both said that the vast majority of issues had been tentatively agreed upon. 

With the scheduling error, the city and union are working on a new meeting date as the police union's current contract runs out in October.