Lake Charles Fire Dept. asks to reopen contract negotiations - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Lake Charles Fire Dept. asks to reopen contract negotiations

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LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

After operating without a contract for over a year, the Lake Charles Fire Department says they're ready to reopen negotiations with city officials.

"On behalf of Lake Charles Firefighters Local 561, we are here to publicly request your blessing and support as a council in regaining our contract," said Captain Travis DeLano, Lake Charles Fire Department.

Firefighters sent Mayor Randy Roach a letter requesting they go back to the negotiation table.

"At this point, I think the general consensus, as far as the city is concerned, is that we will sit down and listen," said Roach.

Heated negotiations ended in late 2011 after the City of Lake Charles could not afford to give firefighters a pay raise and the City Council would not support firefighter's request to let voters decide a pay increase. Firefighters wanted a millage increase put on the ballot to support a 20 percent pay increase over three years.

While fire officials wouldn't discuss their latest approach, they said a contract is best for everyone.

"Things run better when you have a contract - like I said for the city and for the firefighters. So, we want to get that well-oiled machine back in place," said DeLano.

While a pay increase will likely once again take center stage, Roach said, in terms of the economy, the city still isn't in a position to offer a pay raise.

"We are still struggling to make ends meet. Sales taxes, while they are recovering and the last few months in particular seem to be doing better, they are still not where they need to be - in terms of being able to handle the costs we have today. We have salaries for all of our departments and all of our employees," explained Roach.

The first meeting between the two groups is set for Wednesday afternoon. Roach said they will go back to the City Council before going into any formal union negotiations, should it get to that point.

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