City officials and police union representatives expressed hope that contract talks can resume, and a new contract can be reached, now that a one-time police retirement incentive plan has been implemented.
Under the plan, three long-serving police officers have agreed to retire — Capt. Joseph Pilcavage, Sgt. Joseph Laguzzi, and Det. Sgt. Jesse Van Deusen — reducing the full-time force from 12 officers to nine.
Mayor Justin Taylor told the NEWS that this enables him to achieve his primary goal with regard to the police department. He said he has been committed, above all else, to "right-sizing the full-time staff" and thereby restructuring the department for the long-term economic benefit of the city.
He said contract talks with the police union have been stuck at an impasse for months over the issue of staffing. Now he hopes the two sides will be able to move forward once again with negotiations.
"As things stood, we knew we couldn't offer benefits to 12 full-time officers," Taylor explained in discussing the city's dilemma, "but with these retirements, we now have an idea of what we can offer the nine remaining officers."
Sgt. Laguzzi, who serves as the police union steward, told the NEWS that he is optimistic as well about contract talks resuming and ultimately reaching a satisfactory conclusion.
He noted that Taylor "pitched this retirement incentive plan to us when contract talks were stalled," adding that "we've been going back and forth on it with him for a while to work out all the numbers."
"We went through our attorney to make sure all of the i's were dotted and all of the t's crossed, so it took a little longer than everyone would have liked," Laguzzi recounted, "but with council approving it, we are hoping that contract talks can now be reopened."
He said the matter was set to go to arbitration in April, but now it looks like that will not be necessary.
Taylor stated that the three retiring officers will not be replaced. Instead, he noted that full-time reserve officers will be used to make up for the lost man hours.
"As far as full-time reserves go, that's the terminology used by Dunmore Borough," he explained. "These are 40-hour-a-week positions, but without a pension or benefits."
He said that will save the city a substantial amount of money annually — and for the reserves, it will provide them with a full-time job and a set schedule which they can "work their part-time hours at other departments around."
From the union's perspective, Laguzzi said the retirement incentive agreement "frees up a lot of city finances" for a police contract to be settled.
"We're talking about salaries and benefits for three full-time officers," he pointed out. "That's a substantial amount of money."
Page 2 of 2 - Taylor described the deal as a win for everyone involved, including the three retiring officers.
"As one of them told me, as much as he loves his job, there is life beyond the Carbondale Police Department," Taylor related. "These are three great guys with an amazing amount of expertise in their respective fields and tremendous experience, and there's still a lot more that they can accomplish in their lives and careers."
"We all wish them the very best," he offered.