A unanimous Marana Town Council voted Tuesday to adopt a two-year, amended memorandum of understanding with the Marana Police Officers Association that governs wages, benefits and working conditions.

Adoption came Tuesday, after town and union officials presented their perspectives on six months of negotiations that reached a May 25 declaration of "impasse" by the officers' association.

In the amended agreement, to take effect July 1, Marana Police Department officers would continue under a freeze on raises and step increases. All town employees are under the same constraints.

The town is reducing officers' ability to take home police vehicles. And the officers' uniform allowance of $1,200 a year is being reduced by half, to $600.

All those actions are "economic items aligned" with the fiscal 2010-'11 budget, which the council approved Tuesday.

In addition, the council directed town staff to form a working group with MPOA to review the "meet and confer" ordinance that governs negotiations.

And the council's motion directs town staff and MPOA representatives to seek concurrence on "ongoing issues" that are not part of "meet and confer" negotiations.

"We want to work with you," Mayor Ed Honea said. "We like you guys. We're not going to screw you over."

Council members and staff walked a fine line with the officers. Repeatedly, they expressed their respect and gratitude for police officers and what they do.

"There is a uniqueness to their role and responsibilities," Town Manager Gilbert Davidson said. "The town recognizes their vital role."

"We are very proud of the police department," Councilwoman Roxanne Ziegler said.

It was Ziegler who led the council's call for improved union organization and presentation.

"You can't come up and be unorganized and present like you did," Ziegler told MPOA president Mario Williams. "I know you guys probably are mad. Are there things we need to work with you on? Absolutely."

"This is very new to me," said Williams, who assumed the position in February. "You're right, we do need to tighten up our organization. I'm not going to make excuses."

"We accept the critique," said John Stair, vice president of the Arizona Conference of Police and Sheriffs. "Maybe we haven't done as good a job as we should preparing this contract, this memorandum of understanding."

"Where were you guys?" Ziegler asked Stair. "Help these guys. They're officers, dispatchers, they aren't negotiators. Help them. It's not that our side of the table is smarter than your side."

"We're going to get better at it," Stair said.

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