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Approval of final union contract by Council in North Tonawanda highlights Student Government Day

NORTH TONAWANDA – It was a busy night for the Common Council on Tuesday, and students from the school district had their say as nearly two dozen of them joined city leaders for Student Government Day.

Honorary student members of the Council, prompted by the elected members, joined in approving the contract for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees local, the fifth and final union contract negotiated by the city in the last year and a half. The six-year contract covers 70 employees in the Department of Public Works.

The approval meant that all city workers will now have to pay some part of the premiums for their health insurance, said City Attorney Katherine D. Alexander, who spoke after the meeting. She said they negotiated a six-year contract so that in the future, all five union contracts would not have to be negotiated in a single year.

She said the AFSCME local ratified the contract, by a vote of 55 to 4, two weeks ago.

Salaried workers would receive increases of 2.5 percent in the first and fourth years of the contract and 2 percent in the other years. Hourly workers, which are the majority of the union members, agreed to a negotiated changes in their hourly rate and will receive a zero percent increase in the first year, 1.25 percent in the second and 2 percent in each of the remaining years.

Rob Stefanski, union vice president, said they spent a lot of hours negotiating.

“It was good for both sides,” Stefanski said. “It was give-and-take, not just take, take, take.”

In other business, the Council voted unanimously to lift the city overnight parking ban a month early because of the mild weather. The city joins several other municipalities that have already lifted their bans. The ban was lifted “immediately” Tuesday night, rather than continue to its usual date of April 15.

The Council also agreed to spend $4,230 to hire Glynn Geotechnical Engineering, of Lockport. They will work with City Engineer Dale W. Marshall on a design to replace the stairway leading into City Hall’s main entrance.

Marshall said the stairs are part of the original entry built in 1929. He said that the side walls are crumbling and that the step down out of the building is a tripping hazard. He said they plan to build a new stairway over the existing stairs and keep the entryway to City Hall open during the project.

Marshall said the cost would be about $20,000.

The Council also authorized a request for Platter’s Chocolates to submit a bid to the New York State Office of Community Renewal for a $100,000 Community Development Block Grant.

The grant would be used by the candy manufacturer in its plan for a substantial expansion, moving its operations from Oliver Street to the Wurlitzer Building at 908 Niagara Falls Boulevard. The expansion would add new machinery and equipment and allow Platter’s to add an additional 12 full-time and six part-time employees.

The Council also accepted a low bid of $39,960 from United Thermal Systems for the Nash Road Fire Station roof project. The bid is below the Fire Department’s budget of $40,000 appropriated for the repair.

Also approved were appointments in the Police Department, including Edward A. Smolinski as a lieutenant and Timothy P. Bakula as a detective. Shannon V. Carr and Sean A. Campas were appointed as police officers.

Acting as mayor, Council members, clerk and attorney for Student Government Day were: Emily Howell, Abigail Giambra, Elizabeth Bolsover, Jenna Lucas, Allison Marillo, Zachary Proefrock, Lea Wieclaw and Magarate Miller. The joint shadowing program with the city, the school district and the Student Council has been offered for 35 years.