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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 2, 2010

Big Isle may freeze police, fire pay

By Jason Armstrong
Hawaii Tribune-Herald

HILO, Hawai'i A Big Island lawmaker wants police and fire personnel to forgo pay raises for a year to share in the sacrifices most other government workers are making.

Hāmākua Councilman Dominic Yagong floated that idea in a two-page letter sent Tuesday to Mayor Billy Kenoi, with copies to Gov. Linda Lingle and the labor unions representing police officers and firefighters.

Beginning July 1, police are to receive a 6 percent pay hike, while 5 percent higher wages will be paid to firefighters under the terms of the final year of their respective four-year contracts.

The county would save $1.4 million by delaying the firefighter raises for a year and $2.1 million by putting off the police wage hikes for the same period, Yagong wrote, citing figures he obtained from Kenoi's administration.

However, Yagong said Wednesday the police raises might amount to $1.4 million, noting police administrators offered that figure during a budget hearing Tuesday.

Most other county and state employees are now or will soon suffer pay cuts by being furloughed two days every month, he said.

But police and fire personnel should not join them because that would "drastically jeopardize the health and safety of our residents," Yagong wrote in his letter.

However, Yagong added it's with a "heavy heart" that he's requesting the pay delay due to "unprecedented times."

Suspending the raises would allow the affected workers to participate in the "shared sacrifice" Kenoi is asking of all other county employees, he said.