An arbitrator will make a binding decision at the end of the hearing.
WARREN -- The second half of a hearing to decide the terms of a contract between the city and the police department's patrol officers unit should be scheduled within the next two weeks.
The arbitrator, Amherst attorney Jonathan Dworkin, is trying to find a date both sides can agree to. He will make a binding decision at the end of the hearing.
He declined to comment about contract talks, which broke off Jan. 11 after the city and union were unsuccessful in settling after a last-ditch effort.
A three-year contract for the 42-member union, the Ohio Patrolman's Benevolent Association, expired in December 1999.
A one-year contract was approved and police, along with other employees, took a one-year wage freeze during the city's fiscal mess.
Current negotiations began in 2001.
SERB report: A fact finder from the State Employee Relations Board reported in September that police should get 4.5 percent raises in 2001, 2002 and 2003, in addition to having the city pick up a percentage of the employees' shares toward their pension.
That pact would have cost an estimated $800,000, officials have said.
To counter, the city offered raises of 4 percent the first two years and 3 percent the third year.
Mayor Hank Angelo said this week the city simply can't afford to pay the officers what they've asked for.
Joseph Kistler, co-director of the union's negotiating team, said the issue is one of money, which he contends the city has been unwilling to address.
To the officers, it's a safety issue, Kistler said, pointing out the union wants the city to have eight patrol officers to each shift. Right now, there are six, including supervisors who are not out on the road.
Without competitive wages, the city will not attract the best candidates to fill the positions left vacant after layoffs were issued in 2000 and recalled a year later, Kistler said.