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Published: Tuesday, 9/4/2012

Waterville officials, police at impasse in contract talks


In the newly crowned city of Waterville, police and city officials are gridlocked over a new contract as they bargain collectively for the first time.

The city council rejected a fact-finder's report last month that would have given police a 3 percent salary bump in January, 2013, and another 3 percent increase the following year. The city's labor attorney, Gary McBride, called the proposed pay increases "excessive."

Michelle Sullivan, who represents the Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, argued the Waterville police are veterans who are underpaid compared to police departments in similar communities.

Police did not receive a pay increase in 2011 or so far in 2012, Ms. Sullivan said.

The next step for the two sides is to meet with a conciliator, who will issue a legally binding opinion that can be overturned only in the court system, said Don Collins, general counsel for the State Employment Relations Board.

Last week, the city and union agreed to use Charles Kohler, a Cleveland attorney, as the conciliator, Ms. Sullivan said Friday. No hearing date has been scheduled.

The OPBA represents six Waterville patrolmen in one unit and three Waterville sergeants in another unit.

In his report released in August, fact-finder Judge Burt Griffin from Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court also examined other pay-related issues, including step increases, longevity pay, and hourly salary increases for working between 4 p.m. and 8 a.m.

The police and the city's history of collective bargaining was nonexistent because the growing community of Waterville became a city only last year.

Its status changed from a village to a city after Waterville's population surged past 5,000 people in the 2010 census.

Waterville City Administrator James Bagdonas declined to comment, referring questions to Mr. McBride.

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