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Eight blue-collar employees from the former Town of Clarence Water Department are being transferred to other areas of the town government in a new contract between the town and the Civil Service Employees Association.

The three-year contract, ratified earlier this month by the Clarence Town Board, includes a 3 percent raise for its employees in each of the next three years, according to Supervisor Daniel A. Herberger.

"This was reached by common ground in a very expeditious manner because we had some employees to place who were, in effect, without a contract," Herberger said.

The agreement preserves 10 town jobs from the dozen in the Water Department, which was dissolved.

Of those blue-collar workers, five were maintenance employees. A laborer, a motor equipment operator and a working crew chief are being transferred to other areas of the town's work force.

Five of those employees will be assigned to the Parks Department, Herberger said, and three others will work in the Highway Department.

In addition, two clerical employees in the Water Department were transferred to the town's Bookkeeping and Highway/Building departments, respectively, and two former Water Department managers, Donald Burkhardt and Terry Smith, are retiring.

A nearly $1 million deficit in the Water Department prompted the town to abolish the department on Oct. 1. Operations were ceded to the Erie County Water Authority.

"We feel, in the short term and long term, our residents will be better off with Erie County (for their water)," Herberger said.

Clarence residents will pay $2.22 per 1,000 gallons of water under the new system, compared with $2.90, Herberger said. The supervisor speculated that for the town to have continued operations of its Water Department and to alleviate the debt, rates would have had to be raised considerably higher.

The new contract between the town and its former Water Department employees takes effect Saturday and runs through the end of 2002. Salaries will be determined by the positions held and will increase by 3 percent annually.

Under the old formula, salaries ranged from $14.95 per hour for a laborer's position to more than $17 per hour for the working crew chief, Herberger said.

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