The City of Woodland and the Woodland Police Officer’s Association will use binding arbitration to settle contract negotiations that have gone on for more than two years, according to City Manager Peter Boyce.
The city and guild agreed to go to arbitration after their last mediation session, which took place Oct. 25, Boyce said.
“We’ve gone through mediation, and unfortunately that wasn’t successful. So now we’re waiting to get to ... binding arbitration on the contract, but we don’t have any (meeting) dates yet.”
Boyce, representing the city, will work with police guild president Derek Kelley and the arbitrator to forge a new contract. Outside of rare circumstances, the arbitrator’s decision will be final.
Boyce said the city does not yet know when both sides will present arguments to the arbitrator or how much arbitration will cost. While the city previously considered contracting with the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office for police services, Boyce said its focus now is only on the arbitration.
In general, he said the city wants “to make a fair offer to the police association, living within the means and available resources for the city.”
Woodland police guild president Derek Kelley was not available for comment, but he told The Daily News in September that the guild only wants a livable wage and a department where people want to work.
All sworn officers are part of the union, except for chief Jim Kelly.
Entry-level Woodland officers had their salaries raised to $4,837 per month on Jan. 1, 2017, the last time they received a scheduled raise under their contract. The guild is still operating under that contract. Comparable officers at the Kelso Police Department make $5,152 a month.
Woodland is not alone in facing drawn-out police negotiations: Kalama officers also continue to work under their 2015-2018 contract, which expired at the end of June. Kalama officers haven’t had a raise since then.