The city of Hilliard and the Fraternal Order of Police Capital City Lodge No. 9 avoided mediation after Hilliard Division of Police officers approved a three-year contract in a reconsideration vote that concluded Aug. 11.

The city’s patrol officers voted 32-8 in favor of the contract, law director Tracy Bradford said.

Voting began Aug. 8.

City leaders will present legislation to Hilliard City Council on Aug. 28 to accept the new contract, Bradford said.

In an Aug. 1 letter to Jeff Simpson, vice president of Capital City Lodge No. 9, Mayor Don Schonhardt indicated that the city understood that “the overriding outstanding issue for the patrol officers is the availability of spousal coverage under the city’s health-insurance plan.”

The letter said the city would continue to make its plan available to spouses and that a surcharge for spousal coverage would not be increased during the term of the contract.

The city also offered a one-time $250 ratification bonus, according to the letter.

“I hope this ... puts to rest any concerns ... regarding the city’s commitment,” Schonhardt wrote.

Simpson said he credits Hilliard’s administration, through Schonhardt, with “stepping up to the plate” and addressing officers’ concerns.

He said the initial contract was silent concerning health insurance for the spouses of officers.

“That was a concern for the officers,” Simpson said, adding that the city’s clarity on the provision of insurance for spouses during the term of the new contract was an indicator of its desire to attract and keep the best officers.

The signing bonus was an even clearer indication of the city’s good faith in the collective-bargaining process, he said.

The new contract for police officers includes the same salary increases as the contract that was voted down last month.

Officers rejected the first contract by a 2-1 margin, City Councilman Les Carrier said last month. He said he could not divulge further details about the contract because it was discussed during an executive session of City Council on July 24.

On July 24, City Council members ratified a three-year contract for sergeants and lieutenants, handled separately from a three-year contract for police officers.

Chiefs and deputy chiefs are not members of the FOP and are not subject to collective bargaining.

Both contracts, effective from Jan. 1, 2017, to Dec. 31, 2019, offered a 3.15 percent raise in 2017 and 3 percent increases in 2018 and 2019, Bradford said.

Bradford said July 24 the contract for police officers was headed to mediation within 30 days but soon indicated that the parties would instead enter into negotiations to prevent mediation.

In mediation, an attempt is made by a third party to negotiate an agreement, taking both sides into consideration, Bradford previously said.

If mediation fails, the case goes to arbitration, at which the appointed arbiter determines which offer to accept, binding the parties, she said.

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