Public Safety

Plum/Park/New Mini Roundabout

In response to the high number of crashes that occur at the intersection of N. Plum St., Park Ave. and E. New St., the City will install a mini roundabout at the intersection on Wednesday, June 12.

The roundabout will be created using paint markings and flexible delineators. It will initially be executed as a three- to six-month pilot program. If successful, a more permanent solution will be implemented.

The roundabout was considered after resident Andrew Whalen brought concerns to the Traffic Commission about the safety of both the intersection of N. Plum St. and E. Frederick St. as well as N. Plum St., Park Ave. and E. New St. for drivers, pedestrian and cyclists. He was worried about his daughters getting to school safely after having a few “near misses” himself.

In response to Whalen’s concerns, Cindy McCormick, Deputy Director of the Department of Public Works, issued an online survey and held a neighborhood meeting in November of last year.

“Mayor Sorace and the Traffic Commission listened to my concerns. Cindy McCormick worked with me and neighborhood leaders by setting up a meeting to hear neighborhood concerns and keeping the lines of communication open,” said Whalen.

According to the survey, residents preferred an all-way stop at the intersection of N. Plum St. and E. Frederick St. Responses were evenly split between an all-way stop and a mini roundabout for the intersection of N. Plum St., Park Ave. and E. New St.

The Traffic Commission approved both recommendations at their meeting on January 8. The all-way stop was installed at N. Plum St. and E. Frederick St. earlier this spring.

“One of our strategic priorities is safe streets and this intersection was identified as in need of an intervention. We’re excited to see how this pilot works,” said Mayor Danene Sorace.

Motorists are encouraged to use caution when traveling through the roundabout and are reminded to yield to all pedestrians in crosswalks. Traffic will circulate in a counterclockwise direction around the roundabout. All four approaches must yield to traffic in the mini roundabout. Left turns for trucks or buses may require them to drive over the painted roundabout, which is acceptable.

Traffic Commission meetings are held bi-monthly on the first Tuesday of the month at 3:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers at City Hall, 120 N. Duke St. To be added to the agenda, residents should submit a brief summary of their request to Rhonda Morales at (717) 735-3451 or prior to the meeting. Meeting dates and agenda deadlines can be found at

Employee Spotlight: Crossing Guard Patricia Esh

"It never hurts to make a little extra money," said school crossing guard Patricia Esh.

Esh started as a school crossing guard with the City of Lancaster in October 2017. She has been a stay-at-home mom for 16 years, and once her youngest started middle school she decided it was time to get out of the house.

"When I saw the ad for crossing guards and that it was only 2 hours a day, I thought, 'Why not?' " said Esh. "I have been able to get myself a new car and make the payments from my paychecks, which makes me feels like I am contributing to our household."

Outside of her regular hours, she has been able to work as a crossing guard at special events like Celebrate Lancaster and Lancaster Pride.

"I like to help!" she said. 

Besides the extra cash, Esh loves being able to help students get to and from school safely, and getting to know the neighbors near the school. She also appreciates the flexibility of the part-time job, which leaves her time during the day for her other duties as a mother and wife.

Want to help the community and make some extra cash too? We're hiring! Visit and click on "School Crossing Guard" for more information.

Mobile Food Facility Fire Safety Regulations

The Mobile Food Facility fire safety regulations promulgated by the Lancaster City Bureau of Fire, Fire Marshal Division, set to be enforced beginning March 1, 2019 are temporarily suspended.

Revised regulations are being drafted and will be implemented following a necessary review by the City’s solicitor.

In the interim, the Fire Marshal will be conducting courtesy fire safety inventory inspections of Mobile Food Facilities in conjunction with routine Health Officer inspections whenever possible and practical.

Registered Mobile Food Facility operators, and those seeking registration, will be advised of a timeline when the revised regulations are adopted, and enforcement implemented.

Please submit any inquiries to

Poplar Street Fire Deemed Accidental

The Lancaster City Bureau of Fire has determined the early morning fire that claimed the lives of Lydia and Jose Montes on Feb. 14 was accidental.

The fire at 758 Poplar St. originated in a second-floor bedroom, but due to significant fire damage in the room of origin, investigators have not specifically cited a cause at this time.

The home sustained a total fire loss of $75,000. The fire was jointly investigated by the Lancaster City Fire Marshal Division, Lancaster City Bureau of Police and Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal.

The Lancaster City Bureau of Fire reminds residents to:

  • Install non-replaceable 10-year battery powered smoke alarms on every floor and in every sleeping area.
  • Test your smoke alarms every month by the pressing the “test” button.
  • Ensure every person in your home understands and practices Exit Drills in The Home (E.D.I.T.H.) at least twice a year.

The Lancaster City Bureau of Fire can install smoke alarms free of charge to qualified homeowners in the Lancaster City. For more information on smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms, please contact the Lancaster City Fire Marshal Division by calling (717) 291-4869 or by email at

Two Killed in Thursday Morning Fire

Two residents were killed Thursday morning in a fire at 758 Poplar St. Lancaster City Bureau of Fire was dispatched at 4:01 a.m. to the home in the Cabbage Hill neighborhood. Firefighters arrived to find fire coming from a 2.5 story rowhome at the end of the row. Bureau of Fire personnel made an aggressive attack inside the residence. Heavy fire was found on the second floor where they conducted a search and rescue in which they found one adult male and one adult female unconscious on the second-floor hallway.

Firefighters quickly rescued both victims from the second floor and provided immediate emergency medical care with assistance from Lancaster Emergency Medical Services. Both victims were transported to Lancaster General Hospital in life-threatening condition. Both victims were later pronounced dead. The victims are identified as Lydia Montes, 59 and Jose Montes, 59.

The incident was upgraded to a second alarm, bringing approximately 75 firefighters to the scene. The fire was extinguished within 30 minutes and no other injuries were reported. The cause of the fire remains under investigation. The Lancaster City Fire Marshal Division, Lancaster City Bureau of Police, and Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal’s office are working collectively to determine the cause of the fire. Fire Marshals report that the home had smoke detectors, and neighbors heard alarms sounding.

The Lancaster City Bureau of Fire reminds residents to:

- Install smoke detectors on every floor and in every bedroom.
- Test your smoke detectors every month by the pressing the “test” button.
- Ensure every person in your home understands and practices your home fire escape plan twice a year.

If you do not have working smoke detectors, Lancaster City Bureau of Fire can provide smoke detectors and installation free of charge to qualified homeowners in the City of Lancaster. For more information on the smoke detector program, please contact the Fire Marshal Division at 717-291-4869.

Trick or Treat Night & Halloween Safety Tips

Halloween week has finally arrived! We’ve been getting calls since mid-summer about Trick or Treat night. This year it is on Halloween - Wednesday, October 31 from 6 to 8 pm.

The Lancaster City Police Department posted Halloween safety tips on their Facebook page last year. Here are some highlights:

- Choose brightly colored costumes and add reflective tape to costumes and treat bags.

- Plan to trick or treat in familiar neighborhoods with well-lit streets.

- Even if you are accompanying your children, make sure they know your phone number and address in case you are separated. Consider giving them a cell phone to carry and teach them how to call 911.

- Don’t send young children out to trick or treat alone, and make sure to tell older children to stick together.

- Remind your children to never enter a stranger’s home or approach any vehicles.

The City of Lancaster wishes everyone a safe and happy Halloween!

Get to Know Your City Employees: Israel Velazquez

September 15 through October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month! Forty percent of Lancaster City residents identify as Hispanic or Latinx, which is reflected in our staff. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we are celebrating our Hispanic employees and will feature a handful of them on our blog throughout the coming weeks. First up is Israel "Izzy" Velazquez, one of our dedicated firefighters. 

Position: My position is 1st driver of Truck 2 at Lancaster City Bureau of Fire.

But no, really, what does that position do? I'm responsible for driving my crew to the scene of all calls we are dispatched to. I have different jobs for different calls. But I'm mainly responsible for the truck and its contents.

How does your job relate to making Lancaster a better, safer, or more equitable community? When I'm needed, that usually means someone is having a bad day and they are always extremely happy to see me arrive. I also make sure that the residents know I am Hispanic so they can see that this is something they can achieve in life.

What are your hobbies outside of your city position? My hobby is mainly working on vintage cars and motorcycles.I have always had an interest in taking things apart and reassembling them.

Where do you like to visit in town (restaurants, bars, parks, etc.)? My wife and I visit downtown a lot, we frequent restaurants and parks. My mom and brother live downtown also.

Do you have siblings? Kids? Pets? The wife and I have five kids collectively, she has three and I have two. My two live in town with their mom. Our youngest kids are 20 years of age (not really kids!).

What was your job before working for the City of Lancaster? Before I became a firefighter, I worked as a tailor for JCPenney at Park City with a lady called Maria Koch, for five years. I came to Lancaster in 1989 from Puerto Rico, but had gone to school in New York for a number of years.

What is one thing you wish people knew about your job/what are the most common misconceptions about your job? People think we sit around all day, but we actually have a pretty busy schedule. We do everything from house chores, to school fire drills, to making complete drawings of buildings in town and where to shut off the water, gas and electric, and who to contact in case of an emergency.

What is your best, “Lancaster Moment?” My favorite Lancaster moment was when I was given the opportunity to take this job that helps me not only take care of my family but also serve the great community of Lancaster City.

What’s your favorite song right now? I'm sorry but I'm stuck in 80's when it comes to music! My all time favorite song is called "Baby Come To Me," by Jeffrey Osbourne.

May be edited for length or clarity.

Input Session - Police Use of Force Policy

Lancaster city residents are invited to join the Community Police Planning Group for an input session regarding updates to the use of force policy at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 3 in Council Chambers at City Hall, 120 N. Duke St.

The Lancaster City Police Department’s Policy Manager, Eric Leanza, will be available to explain the differences between the old and new policies. Breakout groups will be facilitated by community leaders representing a wide variety of backgrounds and occupations. 

To view the old use of force policy, revised version, and a summary of key changes, and provide feedback, go to

Get to Know Your City Employees: David Ruiz

As of this week, the School District of Lancaster is back in session, in full swing! So we're featuring David Ruiz, one of our School Resource Officers. SROs are sworn officers that are assigned to a school, which helps foster a safe learning enviroment for students and teachers, and builds positive relationships between students and law enforcement.

What is your position? School Resource Officer

But no, really, what does that position do? It’s best described as a triad of responsibilities; law enforcement/school safety, law education in classroom settings, and finally informal counselor/big brother/mentor.

How does your job relate to making Lancaster a better, safer, or more equitable community? By being able to reach/relate with our students (where they are) at an early age I believe we (as SROs) have the ability to not only guide and educate them but to also show them by example what a good citizen looks like.

What are your hobbies outside of your city position? I love the arts, music and reading.

Where do you like to visit in town (restaurants, bars, parks, etc.)? I’ve been asked this question before, and it seem every time I have to update my choices. So, at this moment I’m going to say for parks, it’s gotta be The Lancaster County Park. For Restaurants, Sluggers Pizzeria and I don’t do bars. I also like Clipper Magazine Stadium and the Fulton Opera House.

Do you have siblings? Kids? Pets? Yes, yes and yes. I come from a family of 15 siblings, my lovely wife and I have seven wonderful children all grown up and out of the house now, and we have (well my wife has) two dogs a few fish (guppies) at home.

What was your job before working for the City of Lancaster? I served as a Lancaster County Deputy Sheriff.

What is one thing you wish people knew about your job/what are the most common misconceptions about your job? That working with our youth as an SRO is quite possibly the most rewarding field to work in within our police department and that SROs – in general – are not “street patrolmen” walking around in our community schools looking to arrest and criminally charge our kids the moment they do something wrong. I want to be a hero to our kids, not a ZERO!

What is your best, “Lancaster Moment?” To be honest, I have a lot of “best” Lancaster moments so let me just pick the time I stood up all night volunteering at our school’s annual lock-in. It’s an event where teachers and a few academically selected students get a chance to sleep over at the school building as a reward, playing games in the gym and listening to music with other students/teachers/admins amongst other fun activities that are all well planned out approved by the school administration in advance. It was a lot of fun but boy, I’m not that young person anymore, and it took a toll on my beauty sleep afterwards.

What’s your favorite song right now? Again, that’s one of “those areas” for me, I like way too many songs to really have a current favorite, but a song I heard not to long ago has crept its way into my head and I can’t seem to stop it from playing over and over again in my mind, it’s the song, “In The Ghetto” by Elvis Presley. I know I’m dating myself, I’m good with that, and it’s a catchy song after all.

Town Hall to Build Police/Community Relations

Lancaster City residents are invited to join community groups, the City of Lancaster and the Lancaster City Police Department for a town hall regarding police-community relationships on Thursday, August 23 at Bright Side Opportunities Center, 515 Hershey Ave. from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.

The forum, which will include round-table discussions for attendees, will be facilitated by Rev. Roland Forbes, senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and Fran Rodriguez.

This is the first in a series of community input meetings regarding police-community relations planned by the Community Police Planning Group. The group was recently established to improve trust and cooperation between the police and the community.  

The Community Police Planning Group is made up of representatives from the City of Lancaster government, the Lancaster City Police Department, the Lancaster chapter of the NAACP, Crispus Attucks Community Center, Community Action Partnership of Lancaster County, the Lancaster faith community, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, and the Department of Justice.

In additional to police-community relations, the Community Police Planning Group is addressing issues such as recruitment and hiring, use of force, and a body camera policy.

Flood Precautions

turn around don't drown

A reminder to take precaution whenever a prolonged rain falls over several days or when an intense amount of rain falls over a short period of time. Water is a powerful force of Mother Nature and it doesn’t take much for a flash flood to strike. Roads and other areas covered by water should not be entered regardless if you’re on foot or in a vehicle. You may not truly know the depth of the water or the state of the ground/road underneath. Plan ahead and use an alternative route when traveling near the areas listed below. Play it safe and “turn around don’t drown®”. 


800 block New Holland Avenue

900 & 1000 block N. Plum Street

N. Ann & E. Walnut Street

E. Walnut Street extension

400 block Harrisburg Avenue

Steel Way & Manheim Pike

Citizen's Police Academy Deadline Extended

Would you like to learn about gangs? What goes in to a criminal investigation? The science of fingerprint analysis? What happens when a complaint is filed against an officer? An opportunity to shoot police duty weapons? Tour our 911 center?

You will learn all this, and more, at our Citizens Police Academy. Seats are still available for the Academy that begins on Wednesday, March 18th at 6:30 pm.

We have extended the deadline for applications to Sunday, March 8th, 2015. You can obtain an application at the front desk of the police station, or go to the below link and download an application here.

Citizen's Police Academy

The Lancaster City Police will host a 10-week Citizen's Police Academy beginning Wednesday, March 18th.

Classes will be held from 6:30 - 9 pm at the police station except for a few off-site classes. Only 20 seats are available.

The Lancaster City Citizens’ Police Academy (CPA) offers citizens the opportunity to learn about the internal operations of the Lancaster City Police Department. The Citizens’ Police Academy speakers, (mostly Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice experts in their fields), provide lectures, demonstrations, tours, and hands-on activities for Academy participants.

The overall objective of the Academy is to provide citizens with sound and accurate information about the Lancaster City Police and the criminal justice process so citizens are able to make informed decisions regarding issues / matters involving the police department and/or police activity. Participants will be able to share their experiences and learned information with family, friends, co-workers, and their community to further improve and strengthen community-police relations. The Academy is open to anyone 18 years of age or older, however, priority is given to Lancaster City residents.

Click here for a copy of the application. Deadline for submission is February 27th.

Be confident that safety is priority in Lancaster

LNP’s Editorial Board has called upon city officials to “restore the public’s confidence in the city’s safety.”

Indeed, instilling confidence in the safety, vitality and livability of the City of Lancaster is my most important responsibility. I accept that responsibility without reservation or equivocation.

As mayor, I will continue to do everything government can do to maintain and enhance Lancaster’s safety and its stature as a premier community in which to live or conduct business.

The murder of Nicole Mathewson was a senseless and vicious act, a loss of immeasurable magnitude, a cause of immense grief, and a reason for lasting prayer. Sadly, neither the city nor the rest of the county is a haven from this type of evil. In recent years, communities from Elizabethtown to Drumore have lost neighbors to heinous killers who have invaded the homes of their victims.

At the same time, there can be no denying or minimizing the sudden and unsettling rise in gun violence in the city. The fact that these incidents have so shaken our community is evidence that gun violence is outside the norm of day-to-day life in Lancaster. Be assured that we do not intend to allow this to become the new norm.

Incidents of violence over the recent past, though unrelated, have been perpetrated by a small group of young people, many of whom have prior criminal records or involvement with illegal possession of firearms. In all of these cases, when victims and witnesses have cooperated with police, arrests have been made, warrants have been issued, or suspects have been identified.

We remain committed to aggressive enforcement of existing gun laws. We will be proactive in locating and seizing illegal firearms prior to their use. When a gun is used or seized during the commission of a crime in this city, we will demand high bail and incarceration if a perpetrator is convicted.

There is no one solution to violence and disorder, and a collective effort is needed to keep any community safe. The City of Lancaster is no exception. Those with information about criminal conduct who fail to cooperate with law enforcement allow violence to continue. Anyone with access to a computer or phone can provide information anonymously.

Don’t wait for a crime to occur, and don’t think that you must tolerate disruption in your neighborhood. Residents often say that they don’t want to bother the police with a phone call to report suspicious or disruptive activity. We want and need people to call 911 anytime they witness suspicious or disruptive activity.

Others claim that police don’t respond to calls on a timely basis. In some instances, this may be the case. Police prioritize calls as they’re received and respond accordingly. Please be patient and rest assured that our police bureau strives to provide the best and most reliable service possible.

We will continue to build relationships between city police and the community they serve. As many residents know, the city is divided into 12 sectors or neighborhoods. A map and contact information for each neighborhood sector is posted on the police website. Sector officers are frequent participants in neighborhood meetings, gatherings and church services. In the coming year, sector officers, fire bureau personnel and housing inspectors will join forces and convene meetings in each neighborhood sector.

Finally, city government does not have the resources, the expertise or the moral authority to replace parents, pastors, teachers and other responsible adults who have daily influence over the decisions and the actions of our youth.

These same youth live in a country with relatively easy access to firearms, and an entertainment industry that trivializes human life and glorifies extreme violence. Movies and video games expose young people to repeated violent scenes in which killings occur without remorse, mourning or meaning. Is it any wonder that misguided young people with guns are further desensitized to the consequences of their actions?

Couple this with the sad and unforgivable reality that many of our neighbors are still experiencing the vestiges of hundreds of years of discrimination, racism and poverty, and many of our young people see limited options for a better future. We ignore these realities at our own peril.

The quality of life in Lancaster does continue to improve. Our collective challenge is to make sure that every member of our community shares in that life.

J. Richard Gray, mayor

Vigil to be held in response to recent violence

In troubled times, it is important for us all to come together.

In the wake of recent violence, a candlelight vigil will be held in Lancaster’s Penn Square on Thursday evening, from 7-8 p.m. The event will allow people to join together in prayer, reflection and mutual support. All are welcome.

Downtown churches are being asked to ring their bells for one minute, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

"After the tragic events of the last several days with random gun violence, the senseless killing of a schoolteacher followed by a suicide in Lancaster City, many of us are looking for answers and healing,” said City Council member James Reichenbach, who is hosting the vigil with fellow City Council member Barbara Wilson.

“This is a chance for us all to come together in prayer and reflection,” said Council member Wilson. “We want parents to bring their children, neighbors, clergy, everyone. No, matter what your faith or denomination, with everything going on in this city, with everything going on in this country and this world. It’s time for us all to come out and stand together united as a city.”

There will be no formal program at the vigil. After a period of somber reflection and prayer by candlelight, before the bells, the hope from the Council member is that the event will end with music and a spirit of renewal. People are invited to bring drums, guitars and other instruments.

City + Mix at Arbor Place form PAL

Police Athletic/Activities League (PAL) programs have been successful in countless urban communities throughout the United States, fostering positive relationships between neighborhood children and the police officers that serve their communities. That is why the City of Lancaster has partnered with the Mix at Arbor Place to form a local PAL.

PAL programs are a mainstay across the country. Officers mentor local youth through activities like sports, music, dance, and outdoor recreation. City of Lancaster police office Josiah King will lead the program, and has already recruited officers and other volunteers to teach basketball, martial arts, and archery to children at the Mix at Arbor Place. The Mix at Arbor Place provides at-risk youth a safe environment, adult mentoring, homework help, recreational programs, bible studies and a hot meal. The PAL program builds on the already strong after-school programs provided by Arbor Place.

The Lancaster PAL will begin September 29 with archery, basketball, flag football, outdoor recreation and much more. The program is made possible through the support of the Gunterberg Foundation, Steinman Foundation, Clark Family Foundation, and Rodgers and Associates. 

Celebrate Lancaster street closures

Celebrate Lancaster showcases the cultures and diversity of the people who live and work in Lancaster City, with local foods, locally crafted wine and beer, and also professional, local and regional entertainment.

There will be two stages of entertainment, both at Binns Park and Penn Square, featuring great live music from a variety of sounds including bluegrass, Latino, R&B, rock n’ roll and more. Also, two beer and wine pub areas will be part of the event, one adjacent to the Penn Square stage and one across from the main stage at Binns Park. Over 25 food vendors will line North Queen Street throughout the day and evening – making this a true festival for the senses. 

For this event on Friday, June 27th, several streets will be closed. Please note the following street closures:

7 AM

  • East Grant Street at Christian Street to North Queen Street

9 AM                    

  • Zero and 100 block of North Queen Street
  • 100 block North Christian Street
  • Zero block East Marion Street to Christian

6 PM                     

  • 100 and 200 blocks of North Cherry Street
  • Zero block of North Christian Street

9:30 PM

  • Zero block of West Chestnut Street
  • Zero and 100 blocks of East Chestnut Street
  • Zero and 100 blocks of East Fulton Street
  • 100 and 200 blocks of North Duke Street
  • 000 and 100 blocks of East Orange Street
  • 000 and 100 blocks of West Orange Street

Streets will remain closed until all fireworks debris has been cleaned off the streets. The first street open will be the zero block of West Chestnut Street opening at approximately 11:30 PM. Remaining streets will open by 2:00 AM on Saturday, June 28th.

The street closures will affect bus routes. Please visit the RRTA website for bus detours.

For more information about Celebrate Lancaster, please visit

Recreational Fires: Rules, Regulations and Safety

Warm weather is finally upon us. With summer quickly approaching, neighbors are anxious to spend time outdoors, including building recreation fires in the yards. While recreational fires are permitted, there are rules and regulations that must be followed.

From the City Code:

307.1.1 Prohibited open burning. Open burning that is offensive or objectionable because of smoke emissions or when atmospheric conditions or local circumstances make such fires hazardous shall be prohibited.

307.3 Extinguishment authority. The fire code official is authorized to order the extinguishment by the permit holder, another person responsible or the fire department of open burning that creates or adds to a hazardous or objectionable situation.

307.4.3. Portable outdoor fireplaces. Portable outdoor fireplaces shall be used in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions and shall not be operated within 15 feet (3048 mm) of a structure or combustible material.

307.5 Attendance. Open burning, bonfires, recreational fires and use of portable outdoor fireplaces shall be constantly attended until the fire is extinguished. A minimum of one portable fire extinguisher complying with Section 906 with a minimum 4-A rating or other approved on-site fire-extinguishing equipment, such as dirt, sand, water barrel, garden house or water truck, shall be available for immediate utilization.

This means you should make sure to:

- Burn only dry material. Dampness will create excess smoke. Also keep chemicals, plastics and aerosols out of the fire to limit dangerous smoke and emissions.

- Comply if an official asks you to extinguish the fire.

- Only build fires at least 15 feet away from houses, sheds, fences or other structures. Also, avoid low-hanging branches, tall grass, or brush and stay away from items that can easily catch on fire. 

- Keep a fire extinguisher, dirt, sand or water readily available.

- Have a responsible adult present to keep an eye on the fire at all times.

Stay safe this summer! If you have any questions, contact the Bureau of Fire.

Mayor’s Report - January 14, 2014

I'm pleased to report that agreements have been reached with two of the City's three bargaining units.  Last month, we completed separate contract negotiations with the Lancaster Police Officers Association and with non-uniformed personnel represented by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.  We appreciate the efforts of these bargaining units to negotiate in good faith to arrive at a mutually agreeable contract.   Highlights of these agreements follow.

First, Police union members have ratified a three-year contract that began on January 1st.  Medical savings achieved by being self-insured in 2012 and 2013, provided the City with some flexibility in salary negotiations.  Thus, the Police contract provides for annual salary increases of 3 percent in 2014;  and 2.75 percent in 2015, and again in 2016.  The cost of the 3% increase in 2014 is approximately $300,000 and the average salary for a Police Officer in 2014 will be $71,500.   Additional salary increases of .25% or .5% in 2015 and 2016 may be awarded if certain medical insurance savings are achieved.

The Police Association acknowledged the continued pressure of medical insurance costs and agreed to higher employer contributions for medical benefits.  Police contributions for family medical coverage have increased from zero in 2007 to $520/year in 2009 to $1,344 in 2014.  Police employee contributions to medical insurance coverage will increase to 7 percent of the COBRA equivalent beginning in 2015, and 8 percent of the COBRA equivalent in 2016. 

Finally, police officers hired after January 2015 will be on a different longevity schedule.  This will result in a 40% savings over the current longevity schedule that can add as much as $10,000 to an Officer's base salary each year.  The Police Association also agreed to accept the City's Domestic Partner Benefits Policy. 

As for our non-uniformed employees, AFSCME has ratified a three-year contract that provides the same salary increases as the Police contract.  That is, 3 percent increase in 2014 and 2.75 percent in 2015, and again in 2016. 

As of January 1st, changes will be made in the way employee contributions to medical insurance benefits are calculated for AFSCME employees.   That is to say, employee contributions will no longer be based on salary ranges.  Instead, beginning this year all employees will contribute 5 percent of the cost of medical insurance, or the COBRA equivalent rate.   In 2015 and 2016, this contribution could increase to 6 percent if health care costs increase by more than 6 percent in either year. 

Again, we appreciate the good faith and cooperative spirit that characterized negotiation of these two contracts.  Having these contracts in place for the next three years provides the City with some degree of certainty with respect to labor costs that have such a significant impact on our long-term financial planning.  We look forward to equally productive and cooperative discussions with our Firefighters union when those contract negotiations begin later this year.  

Rick Gray

Space Heater Safety Tips

You may have heard about the unfortunate 4-alarm house fire on Coral Street on Wednesday, November 13. Luckily the occupants were not home at the time, but a dog died in the fire and the building was heavily damaged. The fire was accidental, but like many this time of year, was sparked by a space heater.

While space heaters are great for heating small spaces for a short period of time, they pose potential risks if not used properly.

Keep your home and family safe this fall and winter by reviewing the following tips*:

#1 – Read the manufacturer’s instructions and any warning labels before use.

#2 – Keep flammable materials (fuel, fabrics, paper, etc.) away from the heater.

#3 – Unless heater is specifically designed for use outdoors or in a bathroom, keep your heater out of damp areas. It could be damaged by the moisture, resulting in a fire or electric shock.

#4 – Occasionally check for a snug outlet fit. If the plug doesn’t fit into the outlet securely, or if the plug overheats, the outlet may need to be replaced.

#5 – Unplug the heater when not in use. Pull the plug straight out from the outlet; don’t yank on the cord. If the cord becomes damaged, do not use the heater until the cord is replaced.

#6 – Keep your heater at least 3 feet away from objects like curtains, beds, furniture, etc. Ensure that the heater’s air intake and exhaust sources are not blocked by anything.

#7 – Place the heater on a flat, level surface. Do not place heaters on furniture, as damage from a fall may cause a fire or shock hazard.

# 8 – Keep children away from heaters and do not leave a heater in a child’s room without supervision.

#9 – String out cords on top of rugs or other flooring. Placing the cord underneath something could cause damage to the cord.

#10 – Do not use an extension cord unless absolutely necessary. If you must use one, it should be marked “12-gauge” or “14-gauge.”

If you have any questions about fire safety, feel free to contact the  Lancaster City Bureau of Fire at 717-291-4866.

*Adapted from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers "10 Tips for Use and Care of your Portable Air Heater" brochure.