TALLMADGE — The city’s firefighters union is one step closer to having a new three-year contract with pay raises following the recent completion of a fact finding report.

According to the report issued by the State Employment Relations Board (SERB) on July 12, the fact finder recommended that the 13 employees represented by the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Local 2764 receive a 2.5% pay raise both this year and in 2020, and a 3 percent increase in 2021.

The fact finder recommended that the employees pay 17% of their total health insurance premiums, but that increase to the employee contributions cannot exceed the caps for 2020 and 2021 that are listed in the report. The current contract does not have a fixed percentage, according to the fact finding report.

The fact finder recommended the Local 2764 contract begin on Jan. 1, 2019, and expire on Dec. 31, 2021, and that employees receive retroactive payments of wages and other economic benefits.

Dr. Donald Cooper, the city’s director of administration, said that both the administration and the IAFF Local 2764 had seven days to reject the fact finding report; neither did so in that time frame.

"If they do not reject [the report in the seven-day period], then it’s accepted and the language or that which is directed by the fact finder, has to be incorporated into the contract," said Cooper.

Cooper said the new firefighters union contract is being prepared and said he is hoping that the pact will be reviewed and signed by both parties in "the very near future." Cooper added he hoped the contract will be ready for council’s vote at its next meeting on Aug. 8.

"It’s always a relief to get this process complete," said Cooper. "We look forward, over the next couple of weeks, to finalizing and getting it executed so that we can move on to the many other important things that we need to accomplish."

A message left for firefighter and paramedic Todd Hurd, president of Local 2764, was not returned by press time.

Cooper added there were a couple of "minor" contract details that the parties felt were "vague" and needed clarification. Cooper said the administration and union leaders clarified the two items through a memorandum of understanding that was signed by himself and Ryan J. Lemmerbrock, the attorney for the firefighters’ union.

"It made it more palatable for the parties to accept the fact finding report once we agreed on those two points," said Cooper.

City Council on July 18 approved the fact finding report and the memorandum of understanding between the administration and the IAFF Local 2764.

Since the parties had finalized the memorandum, Cooper said council did not have to meet and approve the report and the memorandum, but explained "We didn’t complete the [memorandum of understanding] until right before the meeting."

The IAFF’s previous three-year contract expired at the end of 2018. Negotiations are continuing with the Fraternal Order of Police/Ohio Labor Council (FOP), which also saw its contract expire at the end of 2018. Cooper said a fact finding meeting is scheduled with the FOP on Aug. 6.

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, pkeren@recordpub.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.