City, police union optimistic about possible contract

Published 6:34 am Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Officers with the Austin Police Department are currently without a contract, but representatives from both sides of the negotiating table said they don’t expect the impasse to last too much longer.

The last contract expired at the end of 2009, meaning unionized officers have been working under an old agreement for the past several months. However, city administrator Jim Hurm said it’s not unusual for the city and a bargaining unit to go this route.

A recent — and dramatic example — was the negotiating process with the Austin Fire Department. Before settling last fall, the two sides had been without a deal since the end of 2007.

Neither Hurm nor officers’ union president Todd Clennon specifically compared the current situation with that of the fire department, but the city administrator did say progress is being made and that he didn’t anticipate a two-year conflict with the police department.

“I think (we’ve had) normal, routine negotiations,” Hurm said. “There really hasn’t been a sticking point. Just a couple of issues to address.”

The city administrator said he could not discuss those issues in detail because of personnel privacy laws.

Clennon also said he was limited in what he could discuss. However, he noted in an e-mail that he did not expect the negotiating process to be “very lengthy” before a new deal is reached.

Both Hurm and Clennon said the two sides will enter mediation sometime next month.

In the meantime, Clennon said the day-to-day operations of the police department will continue to function normally.

“Business is as usual,” he said in his e-mail.

The expired police officers’ contract is the only city contract not settled currently. Higher-ranking officials at the department — sergeants, lieutenants and detectives — are covered by a different contract, which is up at the end of 2011.