A collective bargaining agreement has been reached between the city of Ardmore and the International Association of Firefighters, Local #1881, for the fiscal year 2013-14.

Among the highlights in the agreement is a 3 percent cost of living increase, which exceeds the 2.5 percent the union received last year.

"It was all done in the spirit of cooperation to make a fair deal on both sides," said Jaime Watts, human resources director, "and what is, I think, we settled on, a fair deal. Overall, I was pleased with how things went. They did a good job, and came in good faith, as did we, to reach an agreement, and both sides worked hard."

The department will also receive payment for lodging at the city rate rather than the IRS rate when attending training. Watts said it will allow firefighters more options in choosing a place to stay, allowing them opportunities to lodge closer to the training sites.

A change in the wording of an agreement for buyback time on sick leave was also agreed upon. The city buys back one hour for every six not spent, but with prior wording, it was understood 24 hours of sick time had to be accumulated for the 1 in 6 ratio agreement to take effect. Firefighters will no longer need to have 24 hours accumulated for the buyback to take effect.

There was also an increase in two incentive payments. Basic EMT qualified firefighters will see an increase from $0.10 to $0.21, and EMT intermediate pay will be raised from $0.21 to $0.31. All of the 30 fire suppression employees of the fire department have the required basic EMT qualifications. Union President Dave Tomlinson said there are six to eight employees with intermediate qualifications.

Tomlinson said the agreement keeps Ardmore in the middle of its "universe" of comparative cities in the state. A universe consists of the five cities in population above Ardmore and the five below.

"You always like more; we feel like we are doing pretty good," Tomlinson said. "We are average, and we used to be the lowest. You want to be better than in the middle, but the economic recovery is slow."

Tomlinson said conditions began to improve for the fire department with a bargaining agreement spanning 2007 to 2011.

"We made leaps and bounds to get in the middle of our universe, and we have stayed there," Tomlinson said. "Our goal is to get to the top, and we feel like we do an excellent job."

One area Tomlinson would like to see improvement in is manpower, which lies outside the bargaining agreement. The department employs shifts that can have a maximum of 10 of the 30 fire suppression employees on the city payroll. That also includes shift supervisors.

"Most everybody in our universe has more manpower," Tomlinson said. "It's something we don't have any control over. Hopefully, there will be an examination of that in the next few years.

"We know it's bad times. We know the city is doing better than some. We need to get back to levels before the economic downturn."

Watts and Finance Director Ken Campbell represented the city in the negotiations. Kyle Hallum, Pen Phillips, Chad Mansfield and Tomlinson represented the union.

The negotiations for this fiscal year were wrapped up more quickly than last year. Ardmore City Manager J.D. Spohn said the city was appreciative of the way negotiations were conducted, and commended the agreement that has been set in place.

"We appreciate the work everyone did in the negotiations," Spohn said. "The professionalism and service the fire department displays in protecting the citizens of Ardmore does not go unnoticed or unappreciated."