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Chautauqua County employees will be able to take advantage of an early retirement plan this year.

The County Legislature Wednesday night approved a local law allowing all eligible employees to get into the state's early retirement plan.

Republican Minority Leader James Caflisch, R-Clymer, who wanted to be sure there would be at least a 50-percent savings from cutting positions, pushed through an amendment on that issue.

"The state requires that we try to show a 50-percent savings on early retirement," he said. "But the best way to save money is to try to eliminate positions. We are asking the county executive to review the retiring positions and the new charter, so he could reorganize and save some money."

Jane Fagerstrom, D-Jamestown, chairwoman of the Personnel and Governmental Affairs Committee and a former county personnel director, said she was reluctant to open up the offer to all eligible employees. But after a second round of voting on the measure, she agreed to the language.

"It is nice to say anyone who is eligible to retire should be given that opportunity," she said. "But in the meantime, you have to run county government, and you have to be careful not to decimate your departments.

"I was hesitant, but in order to get the local law adopted sometimes you have to compromise," she added.

As many as 110 county employees may be eligible. They have until December to opt into the plan.

Mrs. Fagerstrom made some history during the meeting as well. She sat in as acting Legislature chairwoman for the absent Michael Bobseine, marking the first time a woman has served in that position.

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