MOUNT CARMEL - Borough council members will vote Thursday night on whether to appoint solicitor William Cole as their arbitrator in the ongoing contract negotiations with the borough police force.

Borough President Tony Matulewicz said Tuesday a deal is close, but council members want to push the issue along since it will be nearly a year in May that they have been working toward a new agreement.

Police are working under an expired three-year contract that ended Dec. 31.

"We don't want to go to arbitration, but we don't want it to go on any longer," Matulewicz said.

Cpl. David Donkochik, who is one of three officers on the police's negotiation team, did not return a request for comment.

Pension and health care costs has been the major points holding up the negotiations over the last 10 months.

Also, Matulewicz said, the contract needs to be amended to make the state responsible for pension due to the widowed spouses of officers who die in the line of duty instead of the borough, a point that was never changed when state law was amended in 2001.

The president said the police officers were "kind enough" to not force the borough into arbitration months ago, but the deal is close enough now that it won't drag on.

"We feel we're at a point where we've given our best and final offer. And we can't give any more out," Matulewicz said.

The two arbitrators from the borough and the police will meet and the state will provide them with a list of five independent arbitrators' names, at which point they will narrow it down to one. The three arbitrators will then discuss the contracts and make a recommendation to both negotiation teams.

By far, police salaries and benefits, at a projected $999,465.40, are the largest part of the borough's 2014 spending plan, taking up approximately 60 percent of the $1,652,431 budget. Salaries for eight full-time and four part-time officers cost the borough $450,256; health, pension and other benefits total $549,209.

In their current contract, officers did not receive a raise in 2011, but their hourly wages increased by 25 cents in 2012 and 35 cents in 2013.

Additionally, they get $75 a year for every year of service to the borough - up from $50 in the previous contract. For example, if an officer is employed at the borough for 15 years, he receives an extra $1,125 annually.

Officers are now contributing 5 percent of their salaries toward their pensions and a flat $500 toward their health care plans each year. The borough contributed $120,000 in pension benefits in 2012, which includes past retired officers, and have budged $80,000 for officers for health care this year.

Donkochik previously said the officers have agreed to end the flat fee toward their health care and instead pay 9 percent this year, 9 percent in 2015 and 10 percent in 2016.

The overall premiums and salary increases will not be released until the final contract is approved, he had said.

The borough's negotiating team consists of Councilmen Clem Plisiewicz, Robert Shirmer and Joseph Lapotsky; the police's team consists of Donkochik and Patrolmen William Adamski and Justin Stelma.