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LCPD Union and Lake City Getting Closer to a Game Changing Agreement – Fair Pay & Retaining Officers Priority No. 1 for Union

Lake City negotiating team and Fraternal Order of Police negotiating team
For the City (left to right) Mike Williams, Chief Gilmore, Asst. Chief Butler. For the FOP, Sgt. Milligan, FOP's Amos, and Officer Burnsed.          (Columbia County Observer photos and graphic)

LAKE CITY, FL – Lake City's rising crime and shootings have given the local mainstream media and community activists a never-ending supply of sensational news. In the background, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the union representing the LCPD, has been working hard to bring stability and fair pay to the LCPD and the Lake City community.


In the old days (pre-2008), before City Manager Wendell Johnson and Chief Gilmore came on board, then Police Chief Albritton gave LCPD officers a 3% raise upon their receiving good evaluations.

It was reported to the Observer that those pay raises kept the LCPD competitive with other small-town police departments.

In prior contracts negotiated by former City Manager Wendell Johnson, a step plan was discussed, but never adopted.

Greg Burnsed, FOP negotiator and LCPD officer
Greg Burnsed, FOP negotiator and LCPD officer, retired as a lieutenant from the Baker County Sheriff's Office.

According to the LCPD’s Greg Burnsed, the FOP’s negotiator, during the past eight years, police officers have only received two pay increases, the last increase only given to those officers on the job for more than five years.

Officer Burnsed explained the FOP established the beginning of the LCPD's step plan during the 2019 negotiations and subsequent contract: "We agreed to the pay raises for the officers that had been in position for over five years as a way to start the step plan. Before that raise, it was not uncommon to have a person hired with experience and a college degree starting at a salary higher than the person training them.”

The FOP built up its membership. Officer Burnsed said, “While preparing for the 2019 contract, we did a membership drive and were able to achieve over 95% participation, up from 9 to 28 members. We are close to 100% now.”

A common complaint by the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Fire Fighters, the unions representing Lake City’s first responders, is that the City negotiators rarely provide their proposals before the last minute.

Monday: FOP – City Negotiations

The FOP submitted a proposal to the City, with a $2.70 across the board increase to its proposed contract, along with a 10% increase for sergeants. The City had already proposed one step per year for ten years.

FOP negotiator Steve Amos explained, “The 10% was just to get sergeants to where they should be in the steps. It wasn't going to be an across-the-board raise.”

Attorney Eric Holshouser
Attorney Eric Holshouser is the City's chief negotiator. (Zoom screen shot)

City negotiator Eric Holshouser commented on the FOP proposal, “We took a quick look at costing it out in terms of the number of hours per year that each officer works times the number of officers, and the $2.70 an hour came to $224,000, which you add that on top of our proposal, not including benefits and not including anybody outside the bargaining unit – our proposal was about $137,000.”

Mr. Holshouser said the cost of the FOP proposal was “$350,000, not including anything for the sergeants.”

He continued, “I can tell you right now that's way over whatever we could conceive and budget, but we understand what you're trying to do.”

Mr. Holshouser added that the contract needed to be considered on a long-term basis. “We've got a contract that is going three years,” he said.

“We’re Trying to Recoup From 10 Years”

Mr. Holshouser asked, “Is there anything that you see that would have us consider such an extraordinary increase in one year?”

Officer Burnsed replied, “The first step is quite significant. It's not something that just happened. We're trying to recoup from 10 years.”

Mr. Holshouser said he understood, but he thought the City’s proposal was “fair compared to what the current local market is, where we've got a decent starting wage… I think our proposal is something that gets us in the market to attract and retain quality officers. Adding another $250,000 on top of that, what we've already proposed, I think, is excessive.”

Mr. Holshouser continued, “We have offered something that's going to cost, not including the cost of benefits and not including people outside the bargaining unit – what we proposed adds almost $140,000 to next year's budget.”

Officer Burnsed said, “The $2.70, that's what the City agreed to give all the other city employees. We are just trying to keep pace with them.”

Mr. Holshouser replied, “But the other City employees aren't getting a step plan like the police officers are, plus a significant increase right off the bat for many of these folks. It would, I think, break the bank if it's added to what we've already proposed.”

FOP:  Looking for its share of Cares Act money

Greg Burnsed
Officer Burnsed listens. During this years negotiating sessions he was well prepared for whatever the City threw at the FOP.

Officer Burnsed said, “You've got CARES Act money available.”

Mr. Holshouser said, “We have some money available; that's what we're putting on the table.”

Officer Burnsed said, “We’re just asking for our share of the CARES Act money that was put out to help cities supplement first responder incomes. If you look at the numbers I sent you, in year one, it does show an increase of $301,641 to the budget. But in year two, that drops to $72,000; year three, $47,000.”

Mr. Holshouser said the “year one numbers carry over. Those numbers are added to the amount that you're talking about -- the $300,000.”

Officer Burnsed said, “But if we are not training a dozen or more officers each year, at $18-$20,000 each (Holshouser cut him off).

"I understand that," he said. "And what we are trying to do is to have a high enough pay scale where we can attract and retain officers, so we don't have to have a lot of turnover.”

Officer Burnsed said, “That what we’re trying to get to, where our officers don’t have to rely on working overtime and have three jobs to support their families.”

LCPD Chief Argatha Gilmore holds step plan.
LCPD Chief Argatha Gilmore holds the step plan grid.

Mr. Holshouser followed up, “We’re looking at what's in the labor market -- what's in the vicinity -- and we have to be competitive. We know that. We know we have to have a step plan. We know that we have got the prospect that when we hire somebody, they will get increases on a regular basis that they can predict. But we can't pay more than market, either. It's not fair to the taxpayers.”

The City negotiating team caucused and came back with a counter-proposal.

Mr. Holshouser said, “We messed with our counter-proposal to give you another counter-proposal… It's something that has an additional expense from our end. Our calculations are that it is going to add in each year of the term of the contract $174,000, plus the additional cost of benefits, plus whatever it's added for non-bargaining unit employees to keep pace, plus all the increases in years two and three… While CARES Act money may be used for this year, it's not an every-year thing. We've got to be able to have a sustainable pay plan that the City can fund.”

Mr. Holshouser explained the City’s changes and concluded, “It's probably going to be at least $700,000 over the three-year term of the contract. We think this is very aggressive. We know that officers are underpaid in many cases. We have to be aggressive to keep up with the labor market.”

The FOP caucused.

Officer Burnsed: “Your counter offer leaves two of our sergeants out: Sgt. Milligan and Sgt. Byrd.”

Officer Burnsed wanted to up their place in the step plan to recognize their time on the job. He said, “I think if we could agree on that, we could take it to a vote."

The City Caucused: no cigar

Mr. Holshouser wasted no time: “I think that we are going to reject what you proposed… First of all, we went and looked at the numbers under our proposal, and a couple of the guys that get the biggest increase in terms of dollar amount for the three-year term of the contract are Sgt. Byrd and Sgt. Milligan… Sgt. Byrd, at the end of the contract, is going to make almost $60,000… Milligan goes from $45,851-$56,836. We don't see any reason to adjust them and change our proposal.”

After a brief conversation in which the FOP complained about not being able to get public records, Interim City Manager Mike Williams shared a few words about the police, and the FOP and City agreed their next negotiating session would be Tuesday, October 5, at 10 am.


Mike Williams addressed the FOP negotiating team [abridged]: “We appreciate the hard work you do every day. We know that you protect and serve the citizens of this community. I don't know if there is ever enough that we can do to thank you for what you do. I want you to know that sometimes you hear a lot of comments -- it's always about the people who don't appreciate what you do, but for everybody that speaks up, there's a ton of people who do.

As of this morning, the City has failed to add Tuesday’s negotiating session to its website calendar.

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