Contract Negotiations and Safe Soil Update

This letter provides an update to my March 6 letter regarding two important issues:  the City’s contract negotiations with the San Antonio Police Officers Association (SAPOA); and the third-party testing of the soil removed from the Convention Center expansion project site.

Negotiating sessions with the San Antonio Police Officers Association were conducted on March 17, 20, and 31. The police union offered a proposal on March 17, 2015. The City countered on March 20. However, on March 31 the police union did not offer a counter proposal, refusing to continue bargaining until after the City Council election. The general election is May 9, 2015; the run-off election (if necessary) is June 13, 2015. The City has made clear its willingness to negotiate, without regard to the elections and offered to continue meeting in April and May in order to reach resolution.  The San Antonio Police Officers Association has refused to offer any meeting dates and no further negotiating session is scheduled.

The City’s March 20 proposal is a fair and affordable wage and benefit package that meets the policy guidelines established by the City Council and addresses the union’s concerns regarding healthcare (with no premium for employee only coverage and a very modest premium for dependent coverage). As directed by City Council, the City’s proposal keeps public safety spending within 66% of the General Fund budget.  Plus, the average San Antonio police officer nets $14,154 over the three and a half year contract.

The union’s last offer on March 17 is nearly $45 million more expensive than the City’s March 20 proposal. The union’s proposal would allow public safety spending to grow to nearly 70% of the General Fund budget by 2018. Each percentage above 66% equals $10.5 million. Attached is a side by side comparison of the latest proposals of the City and the San Antonio Police Officers Association.

The fire union has yet to come to the table to negotiate.  Both the police and fire contracts expired on September 30, 2014.  However, all terms and conditions continue for 10 years under the “evergreen” provision of the existing collective bargaining agreements. The City challenges the constitutionality of this provision in the contracts because it makes them virtually perpetual and financially binds future city councils.

Regarding the testing of the soil removed from the Convention Center site, on April 7, 2015, the City’s Metro Health Department received the results of the Phase II Environmental Site Assessment Report conducted by Weston Solutions, an independent, third-party environmental services company. The study included laboratory analyses of 48 samples taken from 48 acres of City-owned property located at Highway 151 and Old Highway 90 where the Convention Center soil was transported. The soils were analyzed for metals concentrations, including arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, selenium and silver. In addition, samples were analyzed for the presence of volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile compounds and total petroleum hydrocarbons.

The results confirmed the soil is safe and showed concentrations well below the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s Protective Concentration Levels for both human exposure and groundwater protection. The results indicate the soil is safe for residential use, which is consistent with the data from two previous reports. In fact, the concentrations of chemicals in the soil samples were consistent with typical undeveloped agricultural property in the area.

These results clearly support the decision of the City to efficiently and safely relocate the soil, saving approximately $6 million in unnecessary landfill costs. According to the third-party consultant, additional assessment of the fill soil is not recommended. We are pleased to put this chapter behind us.

As always, please feel free to contact my office with any questions. Thank you for your continued commitment and interest in our city.

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