Residency requirement could be canned for police, nonuniformed workers

City Council on Wednesday introduced a pair of ordinances to cement the elimination of residency requirements for police and nonuniformed workers, as negotiated in recent contracts for those employee groups.

Call-out response times – 45 minutes for police, 30 minutes for nonuniformed workers – replace the residency requirements, which will remain in place for firefighters.

The residency requirements have been in place since the late 1970s or early 1980s, according to Scott Campanaro, president of the nonuniformed workers union local, which is part of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The elimination of residency requirements will make it easier to recruit the best candidates for jobs, especially when candidates live outside the city, but in the area, according to Campanaro.

If the city offers the job of highway yard supervisor to someone living in Frankstown Township, a $5,000 increase in salary might not seem so attractive if the candidate needs to sell his house and buy another in the city five miles away, Campanaro said, speaking hypothetically.

Omar Strohm, interim city manager, but also personnel director, has complained of the residency restriction, Campanaro said.

The city agreed to the elimination of the residency requirement because there was virtually nothing else it could concede, given the severe bargaining restrictions imposed on the unions by the city’s Act 47 distress recovery plan, said Councilman Mike Haire.

“We asked for an awful lot,” Haire said.

“We did push for it,” Campanaro said.

The call-out response time limits are adequate, officials said.

Highway workers who come in within 30 minutes will have the highways plowed in time for the police officers who are coming in within 45 minutes, Campanaro joked.

Other municipalities allow for far greater response times, said Councilman Dave Butterbaugh.

The ordinance that is being replaced actually allowed for the elimination of the residency requirements, if the contracts called for that elimination, Campanaro said.

But the language was a bit vague to a layman, he said.

The proposed new ordinances – one for police, one for nonuniformed workers – will make the elimination clear and explicit, he said.

The firefighters union didn’t want to eliminate the residency requirement for safety’s sake, to ensure that firefighters called to a blaze could get there in minimal time, according to Campanaro.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.