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Council OKs contract with firefighters

The City Council on Monday agreed unanimously to a six-year contract with the firefighters of Local 896 that will give union members a 10 percent pay increase while cutting city costs.

The pact, retroactive to March 2005, reduces the number of firefighters from 40 to 32 through attrition and adds eight paramedics to the 16 already serving.

Numerous changes, including adding a wellness concept to health care benefits, are included along with changes in overtime, which has added as much as $200,000 to the department's budget in recent years. The contract also has a new limit on the number of personnel who can be on vacation, comp time or personal days, a practice that also added to the overtime controversy.

In other business Monday, the Council welcomed a new member. Marianne Clattenburg, a teacher and newcomer to politics, will replace Ann M. Podolak as the 2nd Ward representative. She was sworn in by City Clerk Heidi Parker and will serve the remaining eight months of Podolak's second term. She has also indicated she will be a candidate for a full four-year term in November.

During a conference session, the Council heard a plan to bring a farmers' market back to the downtown area. The Business Improvement District, a Council creation, to promote and revitalize downtown business activity, proposed that a "Downtown Batavia Public Market" will be an outlet for the local agricultural and arts community to sell products directly to the consumer.

The Business Improvement District proposal would use the southeast corner of a public parking lot at the intersection of Center and Ellicott streets, would have space for 24 booths and would operate on Saturdays, a slow business day downtown.

Booths for the May through September outdoor event would be rented by vendors dealing in fruit and vegetables, fresh flowers and herbs, artwork and crafts and antiques.

Council approval will be necessary for the operation on city property. Don Burkel, executive director of the district, said he hopes the market can open next month.

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