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The Hickory Club Police Benevolent Association has ratified a new four-year contract with the city.

Mayor Thomas C. Sullivan said the Common Council will be asked to vote on the contract at its Feb. 2 meeting.

Under its terms, the 52 police officers give up pay raises for two years so the city can begin to finance retirement health insurance for officers hired after 1984 once they begin to retire.

The Lockport Police Department has a 20-years-and-out option. However, medical coverage is available only for officers hired before 1984.

Club President Paul M. Beakman, a patrolman, said last week's vote was nearly unanimous in favor of the deal. "There were very few 'no' votes," he said, although he did not supply an exact tally.

Beakman said: "This contract's very important to us. It's going to make life after retirement easier for a lot of guys. This is a very difficult job, and it's getting harder. The bad guys are getting worse."

The contract, retroactive to Jan. 1, 1999, gives the officers no retroactive salary increase for last year and no raise for this year. They will receive 3 percent hikes in 2001 and 2002.

Beakman said not having a raise for two years "is a big bite to take, but you've got to look to the future. The prospect of no medical insurance after retirement is scary for a lot of people."

The city will pay the equivalent of what would have been the 3 percent raises into funds to set up the retirement medical plan and an improved pension option.

The city set aside more than $71,000 to make that payment for 1999. In 2000, 2001 and 2002, the city will pay twice that amount. Half of the payment goes into the insurance kitty, and the rest will purchase the higher pension benefits from the state retirement system.

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