After more than a year of negotiations, the city and Belfast Police Association have signed a three-year contract that both sides believe will help the department attract and keep good officers, and in a new twist, maintain a basic level of physical fitness.

The contract, approved by the City Council June 5, is retroactive to July 1, 2017, and expires June 30, 2020. Belfast Police Department's 15 full-time employees will get a 2-percent cost-of-living raise in each of the three years of the contract.

Belfast City Manager Joe Slocum said the city compared the pay for Belfast Police officers with officers' pay at a dozen other departments in 10 municipalities, including Bangor, Bath, Camden, Farmington, Ellsworth, Old Town, Orono and Rockland, along with Waldo County Sheriff's Office and dispatcher pay at the county's regional communications center.

Slocum said Belfast officers were paid "significantly less," on average, than their counterparts.

"We found out the biggest discrepancy was right here between Waldo County Sheriff's Department and Belfast Police Department," he said.

Slocum said the gap ranged from $2.50 an hour for patrolmen to $5 an hour for sergeants. The new contract closes the gap for patrolmen within their first three years and brings sergeants to within $1.70 per hour of their counterparts at the Sheriff's Office, he said.

Belfast Police Chief Mike McFadden said the new contract comes at a time when a number of older officers are retiring and being replaced by younger ones. The pay increase should keep Belfast Police competitive with other departments, he said.

"No one's getting rich here; this isn't the type of job you take if you want to get rich," he said. "At the same time, we're after capable, smart, hard-working people, and if you can get a job doing the same thing for $4 an hour more somewhere else, it's not a surprise that you're losing qualified people to those other places that are offering more money."

McFadden said his department recently lost one officer to the Waldo County Sheriff's Office, while several potential new hires who interviewed in Belfast took jobs at other departments.

A new provision in the police contract requires officers to pass an annual physical fitness test that involves running a mile in under 13 minutes, doing 15 push-ups, 15 sit-ups, running three 100-foot sprints, and dragging 100 pounds a hundred feet without stopping.

That might not impress fitness fanatics, but McFadden said it sets a minimum expectation. The new provision was a sticking point in the negotiations, he said, but only because police officers could lose pay if they fail the test.

"I would not be happy with myself if I only could meet the physical requirement," he said. "But it's a start."