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Police and fire unions in North Tonawanda will pay toward their health care

NORTH TONAWANDA – The North Tonawanda Common Council approved a five-year contract with the city police union two weeks ago and on Tuesday night it approved a similar contract with the firefighters union.

Central to both contracts are agreements for the employees to contribute to the cost of their health insurance.

City Attorney Shawn P. Nickerson said prior to the meeting that the city went into every negotiation being very consistent.

“It was our position, in this day and age, that we wanted all employees to contribute to their health care coverage,” he said. “All employees should be contributing toward their health care.” He said department heads previously had agreed to contribute toward their health care.

According to the contract each employee must annually contribute at least $1,400 for family coverage or $607.92 for single coverage. Those hired after 2003 must pay 25 percent of their coverage and at 10 years they will pay $1,400 family or $607.92 single. However, if they choose to waive coverage, they will be entitled to a $1,500 payment. If six or more choose this option, the payment rises to $3,000 and if 10 or more choose to waive coverage, the payment raises to $4,000 per employee.

Both unions will continue to receive lifetime insurance for retirees.

“There’s no question this will save money for the city,” Nickerson told The Buffalo News. “Even with the waiver amounts we are offering, it’s still a substantial savings for the city when an employee does not take health care from the city.”

Both police and fire unions also received raises of 2.25 percent in the first year, beginning in 2016, and 2 percent for each of the remaining four years. Nickerson said both police and fire unions came to the table with reasonable demands. He said the PBA came to an agreement in about two months, and the fire union adopted a similar agreement after just two negotiating sessions.

Still coming are negotiations with CSEA and AFSCME unions.

In other action:

• The Common Council accepted Nickerson’s resignation so he can take on a new role as acting city court judge. The appointment to the six-year term was made by Mayor Arthur G. Pappas and will become effective Dec. 30.

Nickerson’s position as city attorney is an elected four-year term, which ends in 2016. It will be up to the Common Council to appoint his successor and that person must run for election in November to remain in the seat.

Pappas said of Nickerson’s appointment, “He is going to do a tremendous job in this capacity and I think it’s going to be a real benefit to the citizens of North Tonawanda.

Nickerson thanked department heads, city employees and residents for their support. “I look forward to starting this next chapter in this new position,” he said.

• Officials announced an in-rem auction of foreclosed properties will be held on Saturday. Registration begins at 9 a.m. and the auction for properties begins at 10 a.m. in City Hall, 216 Payne Ave.

• The reorganizational meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 4, and will be followed by the Common Council meeting at 6:30. A work session will be held at 6 p.m. on Jan. 5.

• Swearing-in ceremonies for elected officials will be at noon Jan. 1.

• Officials announced that Citizens On Patrol, a neighborhood watch group, will hold a meeting on problems in the First Ward at 7 p.m. Dec. 10 in Redeemer Lutheran Church, 265 Falconer St.