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The Village of Hamburg and the Hamburg Police Benevolent Association have reached a tentative agreement on a four-year contract covering the 13-member village police department, retroactive to June 1, 1996.

The Village Board Monday night voted 5-0 to approve a "memorandum of understanding" on the terms of the prospective agreement, which would run through May 31, 2000.

Mayor John S. Thomas and Village Administrator David W. Fountaine declined to release the terms Monday night but said they are expected to be announced today in a joint news release from the village and the police union.

Fountaine noted that the agreement had not yet been signed by the police union but that its members had voted on its major points Thursday.

"We've got an agreement that nobody is 100 percent happy with, but we'll get something that will bring us peace to 2000," said Trustee Martin Moot.

The contract would cover both lieutenants and patrol officers rather than having separate agreements for each set of employees.

Negotiations on the contract were lengthy, given the controversy a year ago over the village's effort to merge police services with the Town of Hamburg to reduce costs. That proposal was defeated in a public referendum.

The board Monday also hired two police officers, Kevin J. Haberman and Sean P. Gallagher, effective Aug. 4. Both face one year of probation, and their salaries will be $25,000 each. Their appointments are conditional pending their successful completion of a physical exam.

"We are obviously in need of a police officer or two," Thomas said.

Moot noted that the village is trying to fill officer positions to make up for ones who have left the department or whose retirements are anticipated.

In another matter, the village's Brookwood-Kenton playground soon will undergo work to correct long-term drainage problems that have contributed to the park's downturn. The playground also will receive new equipment by next spring to help restore the area.

Village officials assured residents of the Forest Glen neighborhood, which includes the playground, that the Public Works Department plans to install a storm sewer through the park and regrade it to redirect excess water that has plagued the playground for years. Village employees will do the work, which is pegged at $7,000.

"We're beginning some sort of a solution," Thomas said. "Kenton playground is a priority. However, there will be no equipment put there until the drainage is solved."

Public Works Superintendent Gerald Knoll said that during a recent topographical survey of the area, an underground spring was discovered on the west side of the park. The spring is blamed for much of the persistent wet conditions in the area, which was a former swamp.

Birkshire Drive resident Kathleen Hughes again questioned trustees about plans for the playground. "We are willing to help, but it just seems to be going nowhere," she said, noting that there is minimal equipment this year at the playground.

The neighborhood already has had input on $27,500 worth of new equipment for which bids are expected to be sought sometime in August. Village officials noted that they will not install any new play equipment until the drainage issue is rectified.

Fountaine said that trustees did not factor the playground's drainage woes into the new budget, because nothing had been said about it.

Instead, the village will use an additional $7,000 left over from a project to replace fire hall doors at Pine Street and Lake Street fire hall to fix the park and playground.

"It's not that the board does not care," Fountaine said. "Nobody knew it until you all brought it up."

Thomas noted that the village is committed to a four-year program to upgrade parks and equipment that it hopes to complete in about two years.

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