After nearly 10 months, still no deal between Lawton, police uni - KSWO 7News | Breaking News, Weather and Sports

After nearly 10 months, still no deal between Lawton, police union

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - After nine months of negotiations, the City of Lawton and the police union have yet to reach an agreement for the 2017 - 2018 fiscal year.

The fiscal year began July 1st, which means for the last two and a half months, the union has been operating under the conditions of the 2016 - 2017 agreement.

Despite having nine months to negotiate the contract, we're told there have been very few meetings between the two sides, though the City of Lawton said they are optimistic a deal will be reached in the near future.

Police Union President Clayton Houseman said that right now, he doesn't know why there have been so few meetings and he is unsure of why a contract isn't already in place.

"We'd like to have contracts negotiated and ratified before the first of the fiscal year, which is July 1 of each year. The union right now is unclear as to why it's taking so long,” Houseman said.

Assistant City Manager Bart Hadley said they have made a lot of progress in the negotiations and that both sides are to blame for the delay and lack of meetings.

"Early on, through May and June, it was difficult. They have an attorney out of Oklahoma City that is a busy young man, very talented, but it was difficult to get meetings scheduled at times,” Hadley said. “Since then, a lot of the fault falls with the city. When we got into June and July, there were vacations with some key staff people."

Hadley said in recent weeks, the talks have been halted because of the city's ongoing issue with a computer virus.

"Just in the last three weeks, the last meeting we had with them I thought was fairly productive, they had some costing they asked us to do. We were starting on that, had some preliminary numbers when this problem developed and we haven't been able to verify those numbers at this point,” Hadley said.

Houseman said this round of negotiations has focused largely on getting what he believes is a much-needed pay raise for officers.

"We're trying to build a better benefits and wage package for the employees, for the police officers, one of the things we looked at was going to a comparable pay scare and benefits package with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol,” Houseman said. “The reason being they're a mid-level pay package and benefits package in the state"

Houseman said they proposed the idea of implementing a new benefit and wage package over a three-year period, allowing the city to avoid a large jump in just one year. He said adding more benefits for officers is absolutely necessary.

"It's very important for retention and hiring officers, becoming a better police department in the state. We'd like to say the citizens should be proud of their police department and we want the best employees and the best police officers on the street and that's one way to get them,” Houseman said.

Hadley could not comment on the specifics of negotiations but said he thinks the city has been very fair with its law enforcement personnel.

"Over the last couple of years, we've raised salaries at LPD, starting salaries are the highest they've ever been in this department. Overall salaries are the highest they've ever been. We've got the highest number of officers we've ever had in the history of the Lawton Police Department,” Hadley said.

Hadley also mentioned new police cars and the new public safety facility as examples of things that have been done for the police department in recent years.

Houseman said it's frustrating the negotiations are taking this long because as he said, by the time they reach an agreement, it will already be time to discuss the 2018 - 2019 fiscal year.

"Our union would like to take the standpoint of we negotiate, get that ratified, get it put in place July 1st and then we have a break so that the city and us are not just going back and forth with negotiations,” Houseman said. “I guess we would like to be done in a timely manner."

Both sides said they are hopeful that a deal will be reached soon, but as of Thursday, there are no meetings scheduled between the City of Lawton and the police union.

Copyright 2017 KSWO. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly