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The City Council unanimously approved a police contract Wednesday that gives officers 3.5 percent annual raises from last year through 2007.

Todd A. Chenez, president of the Hickory Club Police Benevolent Association, said the union representing the city's 48 active police officers agreed to switch to Blue Cross Blue Shield as the single health insurance provider, eliminating Independent Health as an option.

The city's other public employee unions agreed last week to switch to Blue Cross Blue Shield, Chenez said.

Chenez said Wednesday that he did not have the final tallies of the vote on the contract, although it won approval.

"They are very satisfied with the contract, and we're all happy that it's over," he said.

Under the new contract, union members will retain full medical coverage for life after they retire, Chenez said..

Because union members decided in 1999 to put 3 percent of their raise into a fund, anyone hired after 1984 will receive health care in retirement, Chenez said. That fund now totals about $500,000, he said.

Alderman Joseph C. Kibler, R-at Large, said he was satisfied that the contract was settled but felt the police could have given up a bit more.

Resolving the city's budget woes has been difficult when the police union has an iron-clad contract, he said.

"The economy is not the same as it was five or six years ago. They did give up a lot, but they should be giving up more," Kibler said.

In other matters, the Council:

Voted, 6-0, to prohibit city department heads from spending more than $500 on any item without prior approval of the Council. The prohibition takes effect immediately and will remain in force for the rest of the year.

Gave Joseph Speer and Richard M. Hoose permission to use Outwater Park to hold "A Taste of Niagara" festival next June 17-19.

Designated 4 to 7 p.m. Oct. 31 as the hours for trick-or-treating in the city.


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