Fact finder may be called in if county, police fail to break impasse on contract

April 02, 1993|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Staff Writer

Contract talks between Howard County officials and the police union could be turned over to a fact finder if an agreement is not reached today, a union official said.

The talks, which began in November, have intensified in recent weeks because the two sides could not agree on a financial package and working conditions, said Dale L. Hill, president of the Howard County Police Officers Association.

Because of the impasse, an independent mediator was brought in Wednesday and was to return for more talks this morning.

"We're pretty far apart," Mr. Hill said. "We're trying to settle without having a war."

"I'm hopeful we'll work out an agreement," said County Executive Charles I. Ecker.

If an agreement is not reached today, a fact finder would hear evidence from both sides April 14, then deliver a nonbinding opinion 10 days later, Mr. Hill said. Last year's negotiations also went to a fact finder.

Mr. Hill said the 215 union members, who represent 80 percent of the police force, are seeking parity with other jurisdictions. The average salary for a county police officer is $31,000.

The current one-year contract expires June 30. That accord came six weeks after the previous contract expired.

"This is the third year in a row we've had serious problems in bargaining," said Mr. Hill. The last contract provided merit pay raises on officers' anniversary dates, instead of all at once. It also gave officers on the evening shift raises of 20 cents an hour and those working the midnight shift 10 cents an hour.

"If there's no contract by June 30, I don't want to think what policing is going to be like in this county," Mr. Hill said.

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