The Nassau County Legislature's Rules Committee approved a five-year labor contract between...

The Nassau County Legislature's Rules Committee approved a five-year labor contract between the county and the Nassau Police Benevolent Association. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Nassau legislators Monday unanimously advanced the new, collective bargaining agreement with the county's largest law enforcement union and authorized more than $400 million in borrowing for infrastructure projects.

They also approved a $1 million settlement to the family of a deceased inmate after a 2017 wrongful death lawsuit. 

The $159 million labor contract between the administration of County Executive Bruce Blakeman and the Nassau Police Benevolent Association easily cleared the five-member Rules Committee. 

The agreement would raise county police officer wages by a total of 15% over 8½ years, require all officers to contribute to the cost of their health care and cut the number of sick days for new hires. 

Andy Persich, the administration's budget director, assured the committee the terms of the PBA deal conformed to the pattern previously established in the county's labor agreements with other law enforcement unions.

In addition to a vote by the full county legislature, the agreement must gain the approval of NIFA, the county's fiscal oversight board. The 19-member legislature is expected to vote on the PBA contract at its Feb. 6 meeting. 

The county contracts for the Detective Association Inc. and the Superior Officers Association, which represents the highest-ranked police, were successfully negotiated under the administration of former County Executive Laura Curran. PBA members failed to ratify an agreement under the Curran administration. The union now has new leadership.

The NIFA board, which will perform its own analysis of the contract, said it would not approve a labor agreement unless the PBA contract matched the other two. 

Legislature Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park), chairman of the Rules Committee, asked the only question: Did the PBA agreement fit within the county budget?

"It meets the criteria we need to get to," Persich said. "Again, it fits the pattern." 

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), vice chairman of the committee, said he would reserve his comments until an analysis from the Office of Legislative Budget Review became available. The office is expected to issue a report next week.

Legislators approved the $1 million legal settlement for the family of Michael Cullum, an inmate who died while in custody at the county jail in East Meadow in 2016. In December 2017, his family filed a $60 million federal lawsuit against the county and the facility’s former medical provider, Armor Correctional Health Services, claiming the inmate died because he was denied proper care. Cullum was 62. 

The Legislature also unanimously approved the Blakeman administration's request to borrow $365 million for general capital projects and another $60 million for sewer and stormwater projects. 

The move funds 2023 infrastructure projects, part of Blakeman's $1.7 billion, multiyear plan to upgrade the county's parks, buildings and technology. 

Nicolello, in a statement after the meeting, said the spending "prioritizes Nassau County’s infrastructure needs including various road and bridge improvement projects, building upgrades, and pedestrian accessibility."

The spending includes major renovations to Nassau Community College buildings as well as plumbing, electric and elevator upgrades to various other county buildings.

Among the largest ticket items is $6 million to replace snow removal vehicles and $4.5 million for storage in the county clerk's office. 

Abrahams, noting 16 new traffic safety projects and new first responder vehicles, called the capital spending vote "a resounding victory that establishes the foundation for key investments in a better future for all Nassau residents." 

Also Monday, the legislature recognized 8th Precinct Nassau County Police Officer Chelsea Penn for her rescue of a woman on train tracks about to take her own life. Penn, who has been on the force for about two years, was on a routine patrol of Hicksville when she spotted a young woman lying on the tracks with her bicycle as a train approached. Penn approached the tracks and got the woman to safe ground with 10 seconds to spare, and called an ambulance to take the woman to Nassau University Medical Center.

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