NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - It's been a long time coming but firefighters and police in North Little Rock are finally getting a pay raise. Union representatives say it had been six years since North Little Rock firefighters had a contract with the city and almost 8 years for North Little Rock police. On Monday, the city council unanimously approved contracts for firefighters as well as police officers and police supervisors.
"Just the fact that we have a mayor that's willing to work with us and sit down and talk to us is far, far passed what we've ever had," said North Little Rock police union president Michael Gibbons, who called Monday's contract approval an important step in repairing what's been a strained relationship between the city and its emergency personnel.
"There was a previous administration and the police union and the firefighters unions had disagreements that they just couldn't get passed over one thing or another," added Gibbons. "But that's in the past, we're moving forward and the passing of today's contract is a sign of that."
"It's a long process and this first step is something we've needed a long time," said North Little Rock firefighters union president Jon Miller. "There has been history between the union and city administration that hasn't been in good relations but this is the step toward a positive relationship."
Both Miller and Gibbons agreed that having Joe Smith in the mayor's office was an important factor in getting a deal done.
"No matter what's happened in the last five or eight years now is the time for us to show that we're ready to enter into a contract with these professionals," said Smith. "It shows that the mayor really has public safety on top of his list and that I'm willing to work hard for them to try to make our city a lot more safe."
"The passing of the contract, the salary increase is great and obviously something we were looking for," added Gibbons. "But mayor Smith's willingness to work with us and form that bond and put the past behind everyone is an example of what a great mayor and a great leader he's going to be."
"It's a morale booster for the men and women of the North Little Rock firefighters," added Miller. "And we look forward to working with the administration in the future."