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NIAGARA NEWS BRIEFS

>Extended rail service, free parking available

Free parking and extended rail service will be available on New Year's Eve for those attending First Night Buffalo and the annual ball drop at midnight.

First Night Buffalo, sponsored by the Independent Health Foundation, will offer free parking from 5 to 9 p.m. in the Fernbach ramp, 200 Pearl St.; the Turner ramp next to City Hall; and the Main Place Mall parking ramp at 223 Pearl St.

The ball-drop gathering begins at 11 p.m. in front of the Electric Tower building in Roosevelt Square. Fireworks will follow at midnight.

Metro Rail service will be extended past midnight, with the last outbound train leaving downtown at 2 a.m. Attendees using Metro Rail may park for fee at the Park & Ride locations at the LaSalle Station on Main Street, just north of Hertel Avenue, or at the University at Buffalo's South Campus on Main Street.

First Night Buffalo, which is drug and alcohol free, will feature carnival rides and bounce houses, the Dinner Dogs musical group, the Dennis George Original Variety Show, Comedy Sportz, musician Glenn Colton, the Niagara Falls Housing Authority Youth Choir and Young Audiences of Western New York.

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>Pacts with two union expected to be settled

BATAVIA -- Months of negotiations with two unions representing more than half of Genesee County's work force may be resolved within the next week, according to County Manager Jay A. Gsell.
The 160 workers at the county nursing home represented by the Civil Service Employees Association approved a four-year pact that covers all of 2006 by a 49-19 vote. Terms were not released, but most contracts carry a 2 percent to 3 percent annual pay raise and increased employee contributions toward health care.

The largest employee union -- a CSEA local representing 350 workers -- may vote on a new four-year contract within the next week, Gsell said.

This union of clerical and professional staff has had wages frozen to the 2005 level after the Legislature recently rejected a fact-finder's report as providing excessive benefits. That followed a year of negotiations on renewing an expired agreement.

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