The Portland City Council unanimously approved a one-year contract extension with the local firefighter union Wednesday night.

The one-year deal with the International Association of Firefighters Local 740, representing nearly 200 firefighters, will give the city time to conduct a review of the department. That review could impact future contract negotiations, the city manager said.

“We asked to have a one-year extension on the existing contract so we can then begin to negotiate a longer-term agreement after we have done our assessment of the department and leadership,” City Manager Jon Jennings said before the meeting.

The one-year deal will add about $380,000 to the city budget, mostly driven by a 3 percent cost-of-living allowance, totaling $345,560, that will be retroactive to Jan. 7.

It increases starting pay for new firefighters to help with recruitment efforts and increases hourly educational stipends for firefighters who have associates or college degrees.

It also increases the clothing allowance from $300 a year to $350 a year, with a maximum of $650 every two years.

City officials said that only three of 226 approved positions are currently vacant.

“We were able to work with the city and update a lot of language to keep the department running efficiently moving forward,” said Chris Thomson, president of the Local 740. “We feel that this contract gives us the tools we need to continue to provide the high level of service that our citizens and visitors expect.”

The city is conducting an internal review of the department and leadership before the next round of negotiations, Jennings said, that are being conducted by interim Fire Chief Keith Gautreau and Assistant City Manager Michael Sauschuck.

Jennings first mentioned the review, which will focus on modernizing the department, in March when he announced Gautreau as the interim chief.

“My goal in city government is to make sure that we have modern systems in place and that we are operating as efficiently as possible,” Jennings said at the time. “We’ve made some progress with the completion of the recent fire station study, but now I’m looking for information on other ways in which we can transform the department to ensure we’re ready for the needs of the future.”

Thomson said he is “cautiously optimistic” that the review would benefit the department.

“I think they are doing it for the right reasons and I expect that they will find that our leadership is on the right track,” he said Wednesday night. “The chief is looking at some possible restructuring of the EMS support chain, but we are not sure what that looks like yet.”

The recently conducted assessment of the city’s fire stations determined that all seven on the mainland are well-placed, but five are in need of significant investments.

A top-to-bottom review of the department was conducted by the Maryland-based Public Safety Solutions Inc. in 2013.

Randy Billings can be reached at 791-6346 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: randybillings

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.