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Private discussions between attorneys for the city and the Lockport Professional Firefighters Association are continuing in an effort to avoid binding arbitration in a contract dispute.

Deputy Corporation Counsel P. Andrew Vona said he and union lawyer Bernard E. Stack have discussed the issues, although no formal negotiating sessions have been held in the last two months. Stack declined comment.

The union sent out its arbitration petition Jan. 30, eight days after the second of two meetings between the sides and a mediator from the state
Public Employment Relations Board.

The mediator was called in after the union declared the talks at impasse Oct. 23, 1997. The 59-member union's two-year contract expired Dec. 31.

The binding arbitration process calls for a three-member panel to settle the contract. The sides will each choose one of the arbitrators, and the third comes from a list supplied
by PERB.

Vona said he and Stack will each eliminate names from the PERB list until one person is left. "That's the one we have the least objection to," he said. However, if arbitration does occur, Vona said it is unlikely to begin before May.

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