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Crystal River, police get ready to negotiate

By JOSH ZIMMER

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 27, 2000


CRYSTAL RIVER -- City officials and the union representing the Police Department's rank and file are preparing for negotiations to replace the two-year contract that expires Sept. 30.

Preliminary talks are scheduled for June 7, Police Chief James Farley said. Although both sides have yet to discuss details, issues such as pay and benefits are expected to be on the table.

"I don't foresee any problems," said Jim Thompson, president of the West Central Florida Police Benevolent Association. The union is representing 18 employees in the negotiations.

But in a process in which the quality of relationships between the negotiators can impede or improve the chances of agreement, Thompson must once again deal with new faces across the bargaining table.

Farley, City Manager David Sallee and Finance Director Carol Grivetti have all come to Crystal River since the contract was negotiated in 1998. Farley will be participating in contract talks for the first time as a department head.

The management changes are not lost on Thompson.

"I think between the officers and the administration of the city, there has been a pretty decent relationship," he said. "Then again, things change from year to year (in Crystal River). I can't even tell you how many chiefs I've had. We do our best with all the new faces that seem to show up at every negotiation."

The current contract gives department employees from the rank of sergeant and below an annual cost-of-living raise as well as the possibility of a merit raise reaching 5 percent of an officer's salary.

During the last talks, the union agreed to limits on accumulated sick time, said Sallee, who seems confident that an agreement can be reached without controversy.

Thompson, who said he is close to finishing a contract with the Inverness Police Department, is cautiously optimistic about the negotiations.

"I think there's room to fix some things," he said. "Pay is always an issue. Everybody wants to make more money, whether you're a cop or you work on a telephone pole."

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