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Niagara County News Week in Review - Dec. 24

Here's a look at this week in Niagara County news:

Monday

ANELLO SENTENCED
Former Niagara Falls Mayor Vince Anello, right, gets ready to leave the Federal Courthouse in Buffalo on Monday after he was sentenced to federal prison while his attorney, Joel Daniels, talks with reporters. (Derek Gee / Buffalo News)

NIAGARA FALLS
Former Mayor Vince Anello was sentenced to 13 months in federal prison.

NIAGARA FALLS
Florida tourism officials were greeted at Niagara Falls International Airport.

LEWISTON
Niagara University will offer a new degree in leadership and policy.

NIAGARA COUNTY
Real estate transactions for week ending Nov. 12.

Tuesday

NIAGARA FALLS
Staff Reporter Dan Herbeck takes a closer look at former Mayor Vince Anello's fall.

TOWN OF NIAGARA
Two Buffalo men were arrested in a sales scam in area parking lots.

NIAGARA FALLS
A federal probe involving two inspectors and the former buildings commissioner brings another subpoena to City Hall.

NIAGARA FALLS
The city School District denies wrongdoing in the hiring of its attorney's daughter to $120,000-a-year post.

NORTH TONAWANDA
The city School Board has authorized the use of reserve funds to pay for retirement system obligations and benefits for a former superintendent.

NORTH TONAWANDA
The city is holding a street-naming contest for a roadway in a new business park.

CHOCOLATE
Raising funds for charity by selling movie-themed chocolates are, from left, Niagara University students Talon Fee and Michelle Martineau, professor Bill Angus and chocolatier Mary Ann Hess. (Charles Lewis / Buffalo News)

NIAGARA FALLS
Soup kitchen and food pantry benefits from a movie-themed, gourment chocolate raffle.

Wednesday

NIAGARA FALLS
A music teacher has recorded a Christmas song written by her father and is offering it free to active-duty service members and veterans.

LOCKPORT/NIAGARA FALLS
A county judge refused to reduce the bail for a murder suspect.

NORTH TONAWANDA
The city and Walmart want a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit against them.

NIAGARA FALLS
A silicon plant in the city will benefit from a Commerce Department ruling, according to Sen. Charles Schumer.

SOMERSET
Arguments in the lawsuit aimed at stopping a proposed Verizon data center will be heard by a new judge.

Nyce
Motivational speaker, hip-hop artist and Buffalo native Tee Nyce signs autographs Tuesday for Niagara Falls High School students Lashwana Lowery, center, and Aolyha Holifield. (Sharon Cantillon / Buffalo News)

NIAGARA FALLS
A Buffalo-born rapper brought his motivational talks to Niagara Falls High School.

NIAGARA FALLS
The city announced its schedule for holiday closings.

NIAGARA FALLS/LEWISTON
The three area international bridges will be toll-free on Christmas.

Thursday

NIAGARA FALLS
Former Niagara Falls police officer Ryan Warme is sentenced to 13 years and nine months in federal prison.

ROBERT THOUSAND
Robert J. Thousand is escorted into the courtroom for his sentencing Wednesday. (Derek Gee / Buffalo News)

LOCKPORT
An accomplice in the killing of a group home worker gets 20 years in prison.

SOMERSET
A lawsuit challenging the review of plans for a Verizon data center heads to court.

NIAGARA FALLS
A former city employee accused of stealing on the job pleads guilty.

NIAGARA FALLS
The city has total control over the vacant Rainbow Centre mall, site of the proposed Niagara County Community College culinary institute.

WHEATFIELD
A Buffalo man has pleaded guilty to charges from a January home invasion on Moyer Road. 

NIAGARA COUNTY
Holiday hours have been announced for local auto bureaus.

Be sure to visit our various community pages for the latest news from your area.

For today's Niagara County news, visit our Niagara County page at buffalonews.com/niagaracounty.

--Aaron Besecker

Audio: North Tonawanda lawmakers wrap up the year

MELODY FAIR
A planned Walmart on the site of the former Melody Fair theater, pictured above in a file photo taken in May, is the subject of an ongoing federal lawsuit. (Mark Mulville / Buffalo News)

NORTH TONAWANDA -- Walmart. Water pipes. Christmas lights.

Those were some of the issues on the minds of city officials on Tuesday night during the Common Council meeting in City Hall.

Here's my wrap-up story.

Listen to raw audio from the full, 30-minute meeting here:

--Aaron Besecker

Witryol touts need for campaign finance reform

Witryolcanttake
Amy H. Witryol, Lewiston resident and Democratic candidate for the 62nd state Senate district, speaks to a crowd of about 20 people outside North Tonawanda City Hall this afternoon.

NORTH TONAWANDA --The Democratic challenger running against Republican State Sen. George D. Maziarz continued her call for campaign finance reform during a campaign stop this afternoon.

Standing in front of North Tonawanda City Hall, Amy H. Witryol of Lewiston said she believes the state's campaign finance laws have so many loopholes and allow so much money into the system, the influence from ordinary voters is diminished.

"This, in my view, is one of the major causes of the problems in the state of New York," Witryol said in front of a crowd of about 20 people. "We have a system that’s an obstacle to challengers to incumbents and to people who have different experiences and expertise to bring to the Legislature. And that’s why I'm running -- to change that."

Witryol also took aim at money she said has been raised by Maziarz, a 15-year incumbent and Newfane resident who is a former North Tonawanda city clerk and a city native.

If elected, the former banking industry executive said the first piece of legislation she would introduce would be a bill that would return unspent campaign funds at the end of each election cycle to the district covered by that office.

The name of the bill: "You Can't Take It With You."

"Legislators can take all of the money they raised while in office and use it to make money when they leave office by lobbying with it," she said. "That’s got to change."

Campaign finance reform has been the most pronounced message from Witryol's campaign in the race for the 62nd Senate District, which covers all of Niagara County, except for the City of Niagara Falls, as well as Orleans County and a section of western Monroe County.

According to the most recent filings with the state Board of Elections, Maziarz's campaign account has $698,971 on hand, while Witryol's campaign account has $8,919.

Speaking of campaign finance, here's a story from August by my colleague Thomas Prohaska about Maziarz's campaign coffers.

Here's a story from July when Witryol joined the race.

--Aaron Besecker

Ulrich continues to tout Canal Street for NCCC culinary institute



LOCKPORT -- Developer David L. Ulrich today continued making his pitch for Niagara County Community College to locate its planned culinary institute on Canal Street.

Ulrich called a press conference for late this morning to formally announce his attempt to lure NCCC's project, which has been planned for several sites, most recently the former Rainbow Centre mall in Niagara Falls.

Locating the culinary institute on the Canal Street block would be a "combination of two good ideas," he said, the college's institute and Lockport's refurbished block on the Erie Canal.


View Canal Street - Lockport in a larger map

7:49 p.m.: Here's the full audio of Ulrich's comments from today's event:



1:52 p.m.: Ulrich called the Canal Street block a "premiere venue" with historical appeal that would give the planned culinary institute a "unique identity."

Ulrich claims his proposal would save the college $5 million in construction fees, since there are already buildings on Canal Street.

He also said the Lockport site provides the opportunity for more of a "culinary campus" than a former mall site does.

Part of Ulrich's proposal calls for parking to be available in a city parking structure, with the city's shuttered ramp at Main and Pine streets either being rebuilt or refurbished.

The cost for the parking ramp project is about $5 million, and the city currently has no funding lined up to pay for it, said Mayor Michael W. Tucker.

The college has sent a representative to look at the Canal Street site, Ulrich said, and he hopes to set up a meeting to discuss the proposal with college officials.

The uniqueness of the site -- located adjacent to the Erie Canal in downtown Lockport -- would be a draw to the student population, according to Ulrich. That population is generally younger and would have a greater interest in a site with a unique identity, he said.

The Lockport site could be ready for the culinary institute in the fall of 2011, Ulrich claims, though Tucker said a new parking ramp could take from a year to 15 months to complete once the plans are finalized.

City officials are about to begin developing a budget for next year, Tucker said.

12:44 p.m.: Here's my story from last month when college officials revealed they received a letter from Ulrich touting the Lockport site.

Here's a previous post where you can see Ulrich's renderings of the project and audio clips from college officials.

Also, read Ulrich's letter to college President James Klyczek.

Check back later for more from today's press conference.

--Aaron Besecker