Costa Mesa approves raises for upper-level fire employees and design for Harbor Boulevard median project – Orange County Register

Costa Mesa’s upper-level fire department employees will see their first pay increase in nearly a decade and will contribute more toward their pensions.

The city council’s 4-1 vote – Councilman Allan Mansoor dissented and Councilman Jim Righeimer was absent – on Tuesday, Aug. 1, essentially approves a five-year contract with the Costa Mesa Fire Management Association that runs through June 30, 2022.

The Fire Management Association represents top-tier fire employees, such as battalion chiefs, who have not seen a pay raise since 2008.

During the first year of the agreement, which is retroactive to July 1 of this year, those employees would see an increase in pay and contributions to the California Public Employees Retirement System of 4.5 percent.

“We have to continue to be competitive with our adjacent neighbors in this marketplace,” Mayor Katrina Foley said of the pay raises.

Over the contract’s lifetime, the pay raises will total 18 and 17 percent for salary and pension increases, respectively.

Mansoor voiced concerns about the escalating city’s pension debt, saying that the city’s payments to CalPers leave less money for other priorities.

“Our unfunded liabilities are going way up,” he said. “I’m not saying our police and fire are not important… but so are roads and infrastructure and other things we do here in the city.”

Councilman John Stephens defended the contract, saying competitive pay helps retain employees.

“If you own a business like I own a business… and you didn’t give any salary bump or compensation bump to your employees in 10 years, you’d be looking for different employees,” Stephens said.

Other provisions in the contract call for executive leave to be eliminated and a cap on vacation from 526.4 to 448 hours based on a 56-hour work week and from 424 to 320 based on a standard 40-hour work week.

A monthly $75 technology allowance will also be established.

The changes will cost the city $296,967 over the five years.

In other news

In a 3-1 vote, the council approved a conceptual design for raised medians in the name of public safety on a one-mile stretch of Harbor Boulevard.

Councilwoman Sandra Genis dissented but gave no explanation why, and Righeimer was absent.

The council put off approving the project outright after several residents and business owners voiced concerns about traffic and the effects on businesses in the area. Instead, council members asked city staff to hold another public…

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