West Palm Beach firefighters get 5 percent raise, despite tough economy

At a time when cities and counties are looking for ways to tighten their belts, West Palm Beach city commissioners on Monday unanimously approved a 5 percent annual raise over the next three years for the city’s firefighters. The collective bargaining agreement’s impact on the budget: nearly $230,000 per year.

The union-approved pact calls for the city’s contribution for health insurance and other benefits to remain the same, at $765 per employee per month. But new state legislation will require the city’s pension contributions to drop from 4 percent to 2 percent.

In a cost-saving measure, the agreement limits the number of employees eligible for incentive pay for certifications like those held by hazardous materials technicians or dive rescue personnel. The contract is retroactive to Oct. 1, 2011, and runs through Sept. 30, 2014.

In other business, a city-appointed task force of downtown business owners and neighborhood representatives proposed requiring “extended hours permits” for Clematis Street bars and restaurants serving alcohol late into the night. The proposed amendments maintain that no more than two establishments per two-story block be allowed to serve alcohol after midnight, but that additional requirements be met to obtain the permit, including one trained security staff on site for every 150 occupants. The group also proposed corrective measures for an establishment that gets three permit violations within 30 days.

Dennis Grady, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches, urged commissioners to adopt the proposed amendments, saying they were a reflection of solid input from the business community. Commissioners unanimously passed the proposals on first reading, and a final vote is set for Jan. 23.

Also on the agenda, Northwood University requested a change to its master plan, including selling over nine acres at its entrance off Military Trail. One suggested use under the requested change would have two businesses on the property that would provide internship opportunities for university students. Northwood also hopes to eventually add an entrance on the east side of its campus with access to Village Boulevard.

The city’s Planning Department told commissioners that all zoning requirements have been met for the request and recommended approval. A final vote on the matter is scheduled for Jan. 23.


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