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Thursday, Feb. 29
The Indiana Daily Student

city bloomington

Bloomington City Council approves several salaries for firefighters, city employees

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Bloomington City Council passed multiple ordinances concerning the city budget Wednesday night, including increased retention pay for firefighters.

The new retention pay is $5,534 for firefighters and $5,598 for captains.

The approved increase replaces a $500 annual bonus.

“I know that the fire department has been struggling with retention of firefighters,” Councilmember Isabel Piedmont-Smith said. “So, it’s great to recognize their hard work and try to convince them to stay on board with our first-class rated fire department here in Bloomington through this retention pay increase.”

According to Fox 59, in May 2023, the Bloomington fire department has lost 23 firefighters. Shaun Huttenlocker, secretary with the Bloomington Metropolitan Firefighters Union, told Fox 59 the loss in firefighters was due to low base pay.

Volan proposed an amendment to the ordinance, which would also fix the salary for 105 police officer positions at the Bloomington police department. Volan said the amendment would increase police officer salaries by about $9,000 and would make the Bloomington police department tied for the most competitive salary in the county.

“We have currently 84 of 105 positions of sworn police officers filled, and the police department we know, historically, there’s a very low chance we’re going to fill 20 positions in one year or frankly in many years,” Volan said. “So, what this does is it says those 21 positions, take some of them and increase the pay of the remaining officers who exist.”

However, Bloomington mayor John Hamilton opposed this amendment.

“We have worked very hard and continue to work very hard on to support our police department,” Hamilton said. “We do not believe it is appropriate to reduce the funded positions of 105. We continue and have kept that goal in place and continue to pursue it.”

Hamilton said that he wants to send the signal that he and deputy chief of BPD Scott Oldham are proud of the police department through recruitment, rental assistance and a consistent goal for sworn police officers.

Volan’s amendment proposal was ultimately rejected 8-1.

However, the council voted to pass the original ordinance 8-1, with Councilmember Stephen Volan opposing the ordinance because his amendment was rejected.

Next, the council unanimously passed an ordinance that fixes the salary for city employee positions. The council also passed an ordinance that fixes the salary for all elected city officials 8-0-1, with Councilmember Volan abstaining.

The council debated the 2024 transit budget, a budget that is utilized by the Bloomington Public Transit Corporation, a separate municipal board in charge of the public transit system. Councilmember Volan sponsored an amendment to cut the Community Revitalization Enhancement District budget.

“I wanted to know where the CRED money was going if it wasn’t going to go into the CRED and I prepared an amendment that would cut that money,” Volan said. “There are a lot of worthwhile things that the administration is proposing with CRED money, but I continue to read the plain reading of the statute which says in the district the money should be spent in the district where it was raised.”

The synopsis of councilmember Volan’s amendment said that the intent of CRED money is to enhance and revitalize CRED districts and the memo provided by the BPTC failed to specify which areas in Bloomington would be addressed.

When Councilmember Volan didn’t receive support for his amendment, he withdrew the amendment and expressed his frustration. He said that he was disappointed and tired of “getting gamed.”

“It’s sort of an existential frustration that I have, like am I really going to miss this job?” Volan said. “Because nobody checks [the budget spending] anyway. Will the next council do more checking? Make sure that the administration does what they promised they would do? Will they follow up? I don’t have a lot of hope.”

Volan insinuated that the councilmembers are just passing budgets and not requesting hard evidence from administrations.

Volan said that Councilmembers Jim Sims and Susan Sandberg were “off the hook” because they are retiring soon but warned the others to check budget proposals more seriously. Volan is not returning to the council after nearly two decades of service because he lost his race for an at-large seat during the primaries this past May.

The council eventually passed the original transit legislation 8-1. The council also unanimously passed the budget proposals for public transportation, water and utilities and sewer upkeep.

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