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Monday, July 15, 2024

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W. Wildwood OKs New Police Contract

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By Shay Roddy

WEST WILDWOOD – Commissioners Dec. 17 reapproved a new collective bargaining agreement, with the union representing West Wildwood’s police officers. 

The agreement, which was initially passed by a 2-0 vote Nov. 4 and reapproved Dec. 17 by the same margin, needed a second reading to correct typographical errors to the original contract, said Commissioner Scott Golden, who oversees public safety. Mayor Christopher Fox, who lives with the police chief and has a daughter on the force, abstained from the vote.  

Commissioner-elect John Banning is disappointed negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 (FOP) weren’t left to the new team when they take over Jan. 1, saying the contract was rushed.  

“The contract with the police union violates the borough salary ordinance. If the current commissioners had not been in such a rush to approve the contract, they would have proceeded legally and passed a new salary ordinance,” stated Banning, in an email.  

The outgoing commissioners did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The new contract includes pay raises, guarantees officers’ jobs in the event of the Wildwoods’ police departments merging, sweetens severance packages, offers moderate increases to vacation time and stipends for officers completing higher education, and requires the borough to promote from within, mandating three years of service to West Wildwood before becoming eligible for the rank of sergeant or higher.  

“They ramrodded this thing through,” said Joseph Segrest, another commissioner-elect, in an interview. “I think the contracts were so lucrative, I don’t know what we actually negotiated.”  

Segrest said that every change from the prior agreement reached with the FOP, in 2018, goes in favor of the officers.  

“There were no concessions on behalf of the borough. It was basically a wish list that came true,” he said. 

Segrest pointed out terms that allow for sick time buyback up to $20,000 when it had been $5,000 under the terms of the former deal, and sick time use prior to retirement of up to one year, which, Segrest said, would force the borough to hire someone new and pay two salaries for a year.  

The former contract was set to expire Dec. 31, but a term in it stated it would remain in “effect from year to year thereafter unless one party or the other gives notice … to negotiate a successor agreement.” 

It is unclear whether the borough or the FOP initiated negotiations.  

FOP representatives did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.  

Commissioners, by the same vote, simultaneously passed a new contract for Police Chief Jacquelyn Ferentz, which included a $17,000 accelerator on the payments of her $1.76 million jury verdict against the borough once her attorney’s payments stop, in September 2021. 

To contact Shay Roddy, email sroddy@cmcherald.com. 

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