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City lawmakers agree to new, 4-year contracts with Jamestown police and firefighters unions...

The city of Jamestown has reached an agreement on four-year contracts with each of it's biggest unions... and, avoided what would have likely been costly arbitration with both.  The City Council... at it's year-end meeting last night... unanimously approved pacts with both the city police and firemen's unions.  Both agreements were presented by Finance Committee Chairman Tony Dolce... who says it's a "big weight" off the city's shoulders.  Council President Greg Rabb says he was pleased because it deals with the past two years -- in which there were no contracts... and, the next two years.  Rabb also likes the wage increases of 7.5-percent for the life of both agreements.  He says the increases are within the range of what was budgeted, and a new "wellness" component will help save money on health care costs.  Dolce says the contracts include a 2-percent increase for 2012... no increase for this year... and, 2.75-percent in both 2014 and 2015.  He was pleased with that... because under arbitration... the city would likely have had to pay more -- in addition to the cost of arbitration.  Dolce adds that the agreements increase both unions health insurance contributions from 16 to 17-percent.  Dolce says both unions approved the settlements earlier.

It's going to be a cold, and snowy start to the New Year...

Another blast of cold air has invaded the area just in time for New Year's Eve activities -- and with it -- lake effect snow.  The National Weather Service has now issued a Lake Effect Snow Warning now through 1 a.m. New Year's Day for Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties.  Forecaster John Hitchcock in Buffalo says snowfall accumulations could add up to 4 to 8 inches in the more persistant snow band.  Besides the snow, strong winds out of the west at 20 to 30 mph with gusts of 40 are expected to accompany the snow and that could make driving difficult.  Hitchcock adds it doesn't appear that the threat of lake effect snow will disappear anytime soon.  A satellite photo taken Saturday showed much of Lake Erie still wide open with very little ice. 

Sheriff Gerace urges drivers to get back to using Winter driving skills...

County residents had to brush off their Winter driving skills again Monday with freezing drizzle, sleet and snow having fallen overnight Monday.  The chill-down came following a quick weekend warm-up... and, rain on Sunday.  Again... the National Weather Service has issued a Lake Effect Snow Warning through early New Year's Day.  While residents will be traveling to gatherings to usher in the New Year... Sheriff Joe Gerace warns drivers to beware of changable driving conditions.  Gerace says it's best to plan ahead... and, reduce your speed.  In addition to ice and snow... forecasters say the quick change-over lead to black ice in some spots of the region.  Gerace says... fortunately there were no major accidents despite the "challenging" conditions.  In addition to slowing down... he says says buckle-up your seat-belts... and, don't drink and drive.  Gerace says there were only a few cars reported off the road... and, other "fender-bender"-type accidents.  However... no injuries were reported. 

Leader of Chautauqua County Snowmobile Federation urges riders to stay off trails while their closed...

The head of the federation of Chautauqua County Snowmobile clubs is urging snow-sled riders to stay off the trails because they're not open.  Federation President Ray Head of Bemus Point says our recent thaws have left little to no snow on the trails... but, he adds they've had reports of people coming into the area... and, riding -- even though there was no snow last weekend.  Head says that's not legal... and, riders will face the consequences if they're caught.  Those consequences include being charged with trespassing on private land, and or having your sled impounded.  Head says the riders were apparently from out-of-town... and, parked their trailers on trail land... and, were able to find their way onto the trails.  He says that's dangerous... and, the local clubs stand to lose the right to use the private property because the owners won't stand for it.  Head urges patience... because colder weather and snow has arrived.  He says once they're ready to open... the clubs are usually able to get the word out quickly that they're open.

"Holiday Haul for St. Susan's" a Big success...

It was put together quickly... but, the first-ever "Holiday Haul for St. Susan's" was a huge success.  In fact... St. Susan's Center Director Sue Colwell says the results of the three-day fund-raiser and food drive were a "surprise."  Colwell says the final figures from the effort... put together by Jamestown Community College Athletic Director Keith Martin... raised more than $9,000... and, brought in over 7,300 pounds of food donations for Jamestown's largest Soup Kitchen.  Colwell recalled looking inside the collection truck they had in the parking lot of the Jamestown Cycle Shop the first-day... and, thinking the drive was already a success.  But... she says people kept coming with donations the next two days.  Colwell called it "just amazing."  The Cycle Shop was one of the sponsors... along with the Jamestown Mattress Company... which provided the 26-foot-long truck the non-perishable food items were put into.  The JCC Athletic Department... Jamestown Awning... Precision Scale and Balance... and, the Media One Group were also sponsors of the "Holiday Haul."

U.S. Supreme Court Justice to help ring in New Year...

The countdown to the new year in Times Square is getting some high-profile help -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.  The organizers of the annual celebration announced Sunday that Sotomayor will lead the final 60-second countdown and push the ceremonial button to signal the descent of the Times Square New Year's Eve ball.  Sotomayor was appointed to the court in 2009.  She is a native of the Bronx.


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