JOHNSTOWN - The head of the city's police union said last week he's "confident" negotiations with the city over a new contract won't have to go beyond the current mediation stage.
Contracts talks are at impasse; the last union contract expired in 2009.
Officer Eric Johnson, president of the Johnstown Police Benevolent Association, said last week both sides met with a state Public Employment Relations Board-assigned mediator Dec. 11 at the Johnstown Public Library. He said talks went well, although there is no deal yet.
"We passed some ideas back and forth," Johnson said.
He said the city has put forth a proposal, and the PBA's negotiating group and its lawyer continue to communicate. The PBA is working with Orange County-based New York State Union of Police Associations President Anthony V. Solfaro.
"We're going to put a counterproposal together," Johnson said.
The PBA official said the counterproposal, details of which were not released, will be submitted to the city and PERB.
"I'm confident we can work this out without going any further than mediation," Johnson said.
The mediator heard proposals from both sides and will eventually offer a non-binding opinion. If mediation doesn't resolve the impasse, the next step in the PERB process would be binding arbitration.
City Treasurer Michael Gifford, who sits on the city's negotiating team, said Monday that although both sides met "officially" with the mediator Dec. 11, he doesn't know the current status.
"Honestly, I don't know where we stand," Gifford said. "The question is whether to meet again."
Johnson said earlier this month that negotiations resumed after negotiations were postponed some time ago by the city.
The last three-year contract between the city and the PBA was approved in September 2009, but it was retroactive to 2007 and only lasted until the end of 2009. Since then, Johnson said, talks were delayed and impasse was declared. The last contract provided officers annual raises of 3 percent to 3.5 percent.
The PBA has expressed a desire to get a new five-year contract for the PBA, retroactively covering 2010-12.
Meanwhile, a 2 percent wage increase for union personnel in the city was built into the adopted 2013 budget, but that can be amended.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at email@example.com.