By ERIC TICHY
OBSERVER Mayville Bureau
MAYVILLE - Part-time Chautauqua County sheriff's deputies have a new labor contract.
A resolution to approve the labor deal for CSEA Unit 6322, which represents 25 current part-time deputies, passed the county legislature Wednesday during its full-body meeting.
The contract will give deputies a $2.92 pay raise, and represents the first labor agreement to be settled between the county and its un-contracted workers.
"Well, I know it was a tough decision for the legislators to make," Undersheriff Charles Holder said to the OBSERVER. "I think it was the right one. They took 13 years of zeros (in pay increases). Really, the county made a commitment to them to keep their salaries moving in the upward direction and that really didn't happen."
The resolution, which was tabled during last month's legislature meeting, has been met with some criticism, most notably by legislator Bill Coughlin, D-Fredonia, who has scoffed at the 22 percent pay hike.
Coughlin again spoke out against the resolution Wednesday, calling the raise a dangerous precedent for future contract negotiations within the county.
"My whole problem has been, and it will continue to be, the if. If it goes to arbitration," he said. "We don't know what an arbitrator would give. It's all speculative at this time."
Coughlin said it would be irresponsible of the legislature to approve a 22 percent pay increase at a time when the county is facing a $14 million budget deficit next year.
"I cannot in good conscious authorize a 22 percent pay increase at this time under these circumstances," he said. "It's as simple as that."
Other legislators, however, argued that if both sides were to go to binding arbitration, the county could be forced to pay more. Fred Croscut, R-Sherman, said an arbitrator would look back and see just one pay increase since 1992 - enough reason to award far more than a $2.92 pay raise.
"Am I concerned about this coming back to haunt us with other unions, no," Croscut said. "I have been through arbitration hearings as a school board member. These arbitrators will come in and look at this whole time period. We could very well be looking at a higher pay raise than what we could approve this evening."
Robert Duff, R-Sheridan, - who spoke vocally about approving the resolution last week during a Public Safety Committee meeting - again voiced his support for the labor contract.
"I explained in our meeting last week just exactly how I felt," Duff said. "I think we need protection in Chautauqua County. We need protection in Chautauqua County. And I'll say it a third time, we need police protection in Chautauqua County."
The resolution passed, with Coughlin; Majority Leader Larry Barmore, R-Gerry; Tom Erlandson, D-Frewsburg; John Hemmer, R-Westfield; Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown; John Runkle, R-Stockton; Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia; and Chairman Jay Gould, R-Ashville, voting no.