TALLMADGE — Two city employee unions are still working on establishing new contracts.
The three-year contracts for the Fraternal Order of Police/Ohio Labor Council (FOP) and the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Local 2764 expired at the end of 2018. The FOP represents 23 city employees, while the IAFF Local 2764 represents 13 city workers.
"We’re making significant progress [in the contract talks]," said Dr. Donald Cooper, the city’s director of administration.
Mayor David Kline agreed, saying, "I’m very optimistic. I’m happy with the progress."
Kline noted that having unions start a new year without a new contract has not previously happened during his tenure as the city’s leader.
"This is new territory for us," said Kline. He also noted that past contract talks have started earlier than these had.
Mike Dornack, President of the local FOP, and Todd Hurd, a representative for IAFF Local 2764, did not immediately reply to emailed messages seeking comment.
Cooper said a fact-finding session for the FOP is scheduled for July 17. Cooper noted that meeting will begin with a mediation process "to see how much progress we can make." A meeting that was slated for May was postponed. He added the administration is "continuing to meet" with the FOP officials "so that hopefully fact-finding won’t be required."
A mediation session for the IAFF Local 2764 took place June 3. A fact-finder was present for this meeting, but Cooper explained that the fact-finder is "serving as a mediator right now."
"We actually made progress in terms of mediation at that [June 3] meeting," said Cooper, who added another mediation session for IAFF Local 2764 is scheduled for June 25.
He explained the mediation process will continue, but noted "if there comes a point where we’re at [an] impasse, then we would go into fact-finding mode."
Cooper said "many" of the issues with both unions have been resolved, but said officials are hoping to resolve the "remaining open issues prior to actual fact-finding."
The ongoing negotiating sessions were a subject of discussion at a council meeting in May.
"I’d rather have a good contract for both sides than one they rushed into," said Council member Dennis Loughry (At Large). "It seems like a long time to negotiate with  employees, but that’s just me."
Cooper said he and Kline are the negotiating team for contract discussions with the firefighters, but noted outside counsel has been retained for the talks with the FOP.
Council member Craig Sisak (Ward 1) said with the city being about six months into contract talks, "I want to be sensitive to how much we’re actually spending."
"So do we," responded Kline.
The mayor noted the city has spent $37,000 during the last couple of years for contract negotiations with the employee unions.
The city’s other two employee unions — the Teamsters and the part-time firefighters — both have active contracts in place, according to Cooper. The Teamsters’ new three-year pact for the 22 employees it represents began on Jan. 1, 2019, while the part-time firefighters’ three-year deal for the 48 employees it represents started on Jan. 1, 2018.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, email@example.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.