Ming DeMers/Sun Staff Photographer

Ithaca residents voice frustration with lack of progress in public worker labor contract negotiation during February's Common Council meeting.

March 2, 2023

Common Council Approves DPW Union Contract, Appoints New Fire Chief

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The Common Council meeting held its monthly meeting on Wednesday, with Mayor Laura Lewis acknowledging Women’s History Month and the one-year mark since the Common Council publicly supported the Ukranian people.

“One year ago, I commented on the courage and resilience of Ukrainian people,” Lewis said. “I wanted to echo that again one year later as that continues.”

During the petitions and hearings of persons before the Council, several issues were brought up including rising public safety concerns, non-profit funding delays, the Good Cause Eviction bill and the new contract for the city’s Department of Public Works employees.

Last month, several public workers voiced strong frustration with the city’s inability to bridge the gap between the city and its workers’ needs. Not being able to reach an agreement then, DPW employees continued to work without a contract or raise since 2020. 

“The public workers still cannot effectively and safely do our jobs in the city,” said Tom Condazella, a police sergeant and president of the Ithaca Police Benevolent Association, in the February Common Council meeting. “You have stressed us all to the max. It has impacted our health, families and personal lives of every worker standing behind me tonight.”

Mike Thorne, superintendent of public works, spoke before the Common Council expressing his appreciation for all parties who worked to reach a successful DPW contract. While Thorne was not a direct part of the negotiating team, he shared a strong interest in this negotiation and assisted throughout the process. 

“This contract addresses those pay gaps and now provides competitive wages that will help us attract new employees, retain and reward our current employees,” Throne said. 

Robert Cantelmo, grad, alderperson of the 5th Ward, wrote in an email to The Sun that the new labor agreements reached between the workers and the city signal a positive step forward.

“I am extremely heartened to ratify the new labor agreement for the CSEA-DPW group,” Cantelmo said. “The agreement was overwhelmingly supported by both the bargaining unit and Council, and recognizes their hard work and the needs of our labor force. Our employees are the beating heart of the City and are central to what makes this community a wonderful place to live.”

Lewis appointed Acting Chief Rob Covert ’89 as the new chief of the Ithaca Fire Department. The nine present voting members of the Common Council unanimously approved the appointment.

The members of the Common Council applauded this appointment as an excellent choice.

“Robert Covert has demonstrated admirable leadership qualities as Deputy Chief and Acting Chief,” Cantelmo wrote. “I am proud to support his appointment as the new permanent Chief of the Ithaca Fire Department and I look forward to working with him in his new capacity.”