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CITY TRIES TO CUT FUTURE HEALTH INSURANCE COSTS

Hoping to limit the cost of health insurance in the future, the Tonawanda Common Council this week unanimously approved a provision that requires newly hired non-union employees to pay for all medical coverage after retirement. Currently, the city pays 100 percent of a retired employee's health insurance.

While monetary savings wouldn't be realized for years, the move was partly motivated by the city's desire to limit the same benefits throughout the city's unions, as well as frequent increases in health coverage expenses.

Mayor Jack Gallagher said the city is negotiating with three unions now.

The new policy is also effective for any person newly elected to the offices of mayor, city attorney and city treasurer.

The first two jobs to be affected by the change would be the senior recreation leader and assistant engineer positions, which are currently open. The Council also adjusted the pay scales for the two positions, creating a higher step wage schedule for the first three years of employment. The salary increases are a way to compensate for the loss of benefits, and raises are contingent upon a good review from the employee's supervisor. The city will likely fill the vacant positions within the next month.

In addition, the Council authorized the Police Department to trade in a 1988 Harley Davidson motorcycle for a 2003 Yamaha Kodiak ATV and helmets, valued at $7,100. The ATV will be used for police patrol throughout the city's parks and bike paths.

The motion was passed by a 3-2 vote, as Council members Colleen Perkins and Blake Boyle voted against it due to the uncertainty of the motorcycle's value. The ATV will replace a golf cart that was used for patrol.

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