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NO ACTION TAKEN ON WORKERS' COMP PLAN

The Lewiston Town Board took no action Monday night on withdrawing from the Niagara County workers' compensation plan despite a deadline of Oct. 1 to pull out of the program for next year.

The board's next meeting is Oct. 1.

Board members have been unhappy over the jump in premiums for this year but continued paying premiums on a month-to-month basis as they discussed the issue since January.

The cities of North Tonawanda and Niagara Falls and the towns of Niagara and Royalton have left the plan, and the Wheatfield Town Board voted to leave last week.

Several issues have caused the board to hesitate leaving the plan, but the biggest question by far has been how much the town would have to pay the county to pull out.

Insurance consultant Michael Kirwan said the town has outstanding claims of about $200,000 it would have to assume if it left the county plan. The county, however, has set the buyout fee at $678,305.

Kirwan told the board that the premises used by the county are wrong and were part of litigation that the City of North Tonawanda brought against the county. Kirwan said the town would have to negotiate with the county.

Supervisor Sandra Maslen, who has long been an advocate of pulling out, said that in light of the recent events in New York City it might make sense to stay in the county plan.

Part of the savings factored into joining a state insurance plan called Lovell Safety Management included dividends realized when costs paid out were lower than premiums.

"Other municipalities are incurring great losses. Shouldn't we wait until the dust settles?" Maslen said.

"I thought on Sept. 6 we came to some conclusion (to go with Lovell). We have to make a decision by Oct. 1. I feel like we have been on a roller-coaster ride. I have lost confidence with the county. With a bigger group (like Lovell) there is less risk. I have not heard anything to change my decision," Councilman John D. Ceretto said.

Ceretto was stopped from making a motion on the matter, and Town Attorney Damon DeCastro asked for an executive session to discuss potential litigation on the issue.

When the board came out of executive session, there was no motion, and discussion was stopped.

The board unanimously agreed to allow the county Water Department to put in a new 3 million-gallon storage tank in Lewiston that would boost chlorine levels and allow the county to maintain safe chlorine levels throughout the whole northwest area of the county water district.

e-mail: nfischer@buffnews.com

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