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LOCAL NEWS BRIEFS

Firefighters' union chief upbeat on staffing talks

LOCKPORT -- Thomas Lupo, the president of the city firefighters' union, said Thursday that an agreement with the city on a new scheduling and staffing format could come "in the next 10 days."

Lupo and Mayor Michael W. Tucker said a Wednesday bargaining session between the city and the Lockport Professional Firefighters Association made progress. "They're really treating us very fairly. This is some of the best negotiations we've had in the last five years," Lupo said. "I'm optimistic about a fair and equitable settlement for the Fire Department and the taxpayers."

The city wants a new deal to try to avoid hefty overtime payments it blames on an overly large minimum staffing requirement and the union blames on the city's failure to hire enough firefighters; there are 47 active now.

Lupo and Tucker wouldn't say what's on the table now, but they confirmed that the city previously proposed dividing the department into three shifts instead of the current four, and having each shift work 24 hours before having the next 48 hours off.

Lupo said work weeks of 48 or 72 hours would have resulted, and the city would have to offer the firefighters compensatory time under the state's 40-hour week law. "With 16 men on a shift, there wouldn't have been enough days in the year to give everybody their comp time," Lupo said.

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Ex-Public Works chief resigns new streets post

LOCKPORT -- Although Wednesday's Lockport Common Council agenda listed Mayor Michael W. Tucker's appointment of former Public Works Administrator Gary M. Andes to a new job as of Jan. 1, Tucker said Thursday that Andes had actually resigned from the new post on Tuesday.

Tucker said Andes' last day as superintendent of streets, parks and refuse will be Feb. 16. He said it was decided to keep the appointment on the agenda for record-keeping purposes. "It was a moot point at that point," he said.

Andes did not return a call to explain why he resigned from the $63,860-a-year job; Tucker said he was told the reasons were personal.

He and the Council decided last fall it was time to fill the long-vacant streets superintendent post. "We were ready to hire someone else, but at the last minute I decided to move Gary out there," the mayor said. The jilted candidate, whom Tucker wouldn't identify, can have the job if he still wants it, but under terms of the city's contract with its department head union, he must settle for a salary 15 percent below Andes'. Also, the appointment will be provisional and the newcomer will have to pass a civil service exam to keep the job.

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