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Weekend in Review -- Dec. 27

Check out the stories you may have missed in our Friday, Saturday and Sunday editions:


The owner of a summer camp where a girl drowned in 2008 will pay restitution after illegally receiving government benefits.

A committee is considering various ideas to commemorate War of 1812 bicentennial.


A 15-year-old volleyball player lost her battle with cancer.

Former Niagara Falls High School basketball standout Paul Harris is trying to keep his career alive in the NBA Development League.

Free parking to end at Niagara Falls International Airport.


Check out the 2010 Niagara County news quiz. (Here's are the answers.)

Luanne Zuccari holds a photo of her son Andrew, 14, who was killed by a drunk driver 14 years ago. (Charles Lewis / Buffalo News)

A group of people whose families were touched by drunken driving continue to work with the DWI Victim Impact Panel.

A man who nearly beat a puppy to death remains jailed.

The Niagara University men's hockey team is energized by a former Sabre working as a volunteer coach.

The Thunder Over Niagara air show will return in September.

The city Youth Bureau is offering a free open-gymnasium program this week.

Norman Miller has published a book about an excommunicated former Amish man.


You can always get the latest Niagara County news at our Niagara County page:

--Aaron Besecker

Niagara County News Week in Review - Dec. 24

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


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)

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

Florida tourism officials were greeted at Niagara Falls International Airport.

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

Real estate transactions for week ending Nov. 12.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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)

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


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

A county judge refused to reduce the bail for a murder suspect.

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

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

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

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)

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

The city announced its schedule for holiday closings.

The three area international bridges will be toll-free on Christmas.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Aaron Besecker

Audio: North Tonawanda lawmakers wrap up the year

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

Audio: Niagara Falls' latest economic development obstacle

New Falls econ dev director NIAGARA KAY4 LEWIS
Peter F. Kay's salary for next year as the director of economic development for the City of Niagara Falls was cut from $100,000 to $1, effectively pushing him out the door. (Charles Lewis / Buffalo News file photo)

When Niagara Falls lawmakers slashed the salary of the city's economic-development director last week, the man in the job saw it as part of a political spat.

In a story in today's Niagara Weekend, we get more from all sides on the move to oust Peter F. Kay, what it means and what should happen.

Listen to a portion of my interview with Councilwoman Kristen M. Grandinetti conducted after the Council vote:

City Council Chairman Samuel F. Fruscione said he expects there will be a negotiation between lawmakers and Mayor Paul A. Dyster on where the city goes from here.

Fruscione said the Council will have the final say on how much the new person in the job gets paid. He said he favored a salary in the $50,000 to $60,000 range.

Listen to some of what Fruscione told me:

Here's what Dyster said when asked about Fruscione's preference for a salary:

"From what I know of the market, having been through the search for Mr. Kay," Dyster said, "I don't think you're going to get somebody for that dollar amount that's going to have the qualifications necessary to do the job.

--Aaron Besecker

First Niagara Falls Heritage Area meeting set for Wednesday

The long-standing effort to create a National Heritage Area for the Niagara Falls region really gets going Wednesday with the first meeting of the commission that will manage its development.

The first meeting of the 17-member commission is scheduled for 2 to 5 p.m. Wednesday in the community meeting room on the lower level of the Power Vista at the Niagara Power Project, 5777 Lewiston Road, Lewiston.

The purpose of the commission, and the federal designation, is to promote regional tourism with an effort involving the National Park Service. The commission will control up to $15 million over five years, and must complete a management plan by the spring of 2012.

Bob McIntosh, of the National Parks Service in Boston, Mass., speaks during a December 2005 public hearing in the auditorium at the Earl W. Brydges Public Library in Niagara Falls on creating a Niagara Falls Heritage Area. (Charles Lewis / Buffalo News file photo)

The 15 members of the commission appointed, so far, by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar are:

-Robert H. Borgatti, Niagara County Community College professor

-Bill Bradberry, chairman of Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Area Commission and former Niagara Falls city administrator

-Deborah L. Conway, National Parks Service

-Thomas A. Chambers, Niagara University associate professor of history

-Willie Dunn, nominated by Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

-Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster

-Chris Glynn, president of Maid of the Mist Corp.

-Margaret-Ann Hanson, former Youngstown village trustee

-John H. Percy Jr., president and CEO of Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp.

-Christopher J. Schoepflin, president of USA Niagara Development

-Mark W. Thomas, western director of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

-Jan H. van Harssel, Niagara University professor

-Barry White, nominated by the Seneca Nation

-Jeffrey D. Williams, partner in Lewiston Management Group and Niagara Falls Properties

-Lillian S. Williams, University at Buffalo associate professor of African-American history

Nominations have yet to be made from the Tuscarora Nation and the New York Power Authority.

The alternates are Timothy Adamson, engineer Robert A. Gallucci, Marjorie E. Gillies and Lewiston Town Board member Michael J. Marra.

Paul A. Dyster, now a member of the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area Commission and mayor of Niagara Falls, speaks during a December 2005 public hearing in the auditorium at the Earl W. Brydges Public Library in the Falls on creating a heritage area. (Charles Lewis / Buffalo News file photo)

Here's the federal legislation enacting the heritage area.

Here's a story from February 2009 when the first seven nominees to the commission were named.

Here's the study report that had to be completed before a designation could be made.

--Aaron Besecker

Video and Audio: Independent film shooting in Falls


Director Ken Cosentino shoots a scene with actress Lizzy Bruno at a house on Ferry Avenue in Niagara Falls for the independent film "CRIMSON: The Motion Picture." (Charles Lewis /Buffalo News)

The Niagara Weekend section in this Sunday's Buffalo News will feature a story about some area filmmakers working on a movie about a comic book artist-turned-vigilante.

Dubbed "CRIMSON: The Motion Picture," the film is currently in production in Niagara Falls, and has also shot in Lewiston and Greece, N.Y.

Here's a video with interviews with the filmmakers during a day of shooting in late September inside and outside a home on Ferry Avenue in the Falls:

Director Ken Cosentino further describes the plot of CRIMSON in this audio clip:

Listen to writer Michael Shimmel talk about the origin of the story:

Here's actor/producer James Ventry describing what it was like taking on his first acting role:

Here's a teaser for the film from YouTube:

Find out more about the film at, and don't forget to check out Sunday's Niagara Weekend section for the front-page feature story.

--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

Panel allows sidewalk spending from parks fund

WHEATFIELD -- The Town of Lewiston will be able to spend more than $800,000 from a parks and recreation fund on three projects, including 5,700 linear feet of new sidewalks, thanks to a vote this afternoon from a panel of eight governmental bodies.

The Host Community Standing Committee, without a single dissenting vote cast, agreed to allow the town to fund the projects, during a meeting in the Niagara County Center for Economic Development on Inducon Drive.

Aside from the sidewalk project in Sanborn, Lewiston officials received approval for improvements at Kiwanis Park on Oxbow Lane, and a 5,000-square-foot expansion for the Sanborn Area Historical Society.

The three projects were endorsed by the Niagara River Greenway Commission on May 18.

The standing committee consists of the New York Power Authority, Niagara County, the City of Niagara Falls, the towns of Niagara and Lewiston, and the school districts of Niagara Falls, Lewiston-Porter and Niagara-Wheatfield.

The standing committee controls $3 million in annual funding as part of the members' Greenway fund for parks and recreation projects. Lewiston's share of the fund is $510,000 per year.

The funding comes through a settlement with the Power Authority for the relicensing of the Niagara Power Project. That settlement provides for $9 million in annual funding for Greenway projects, money which is controlled by four standing committees.

Aside from the Power Authority, the seven members of the Host Community Standing Committee, which had been known as the Niagara Power Coalition, also share a $5 million fund for capital projects.

Lewiston's annual share of that fund is $850,000.

8:59 a.m. Thursday: Here's the version of this story that appeared in today's edition.

2:43 p.m. Wednesday: When asked why the town did not seek to pay for the sidewalks with money from the capital fund, Lewiston Supervisor Steven L. Reiter said he believes the project fits criteria established for Greenway projects.

The town has other projects, like water and sewer line work, for which the capital projects fund can be used.

"We were just trying to judiciously use our funds in the most productive way to support the town," Reiter said.

The sidewalks are to be installed on Saunders Settlement Road and Buffalo Street, according to the town's application.

2:13 p.m. Wednesday: A fourth proposal from the town, to create a dog park on Lewiston Pleateau, was tabled after procedural concerns were raised. Some standing committee members said they thought the panel should wait to vote until 90 days had passed from the time the town submitted its application to the Greenway Commission.

In recent Greenway matters, the state parks agency and the Power Authority last week voted to spend $1.1 million in Niagara River Greenway funds on a pair of new comfort stations in two state parks in Niagara County.

Here's a blog post on the Greenway Commission's May 18 endorsements, which include the Lewiston proposals and links to each application document.

Here's the Power Authority's Web site for relicensing issues.

--Aaron Besecker

Falls never far for Joyce Carol Oates

Lockport native and prize-wining author Joyce Carol Oates has lived in New Jersey for more than three decades, but she's never left Niagara County far behind.

Her fiction -- including the novel "The Falls" -- has included traces of Niagara. An essay in which she describes her vivid memories of growing up in Lockport appeared this month in The Buffalo News.

This week, in an interview with Deborah Treisman, the New Yorker's fiction editor, Oates compares the Falls to Atlantic City. The interview was posted on the New Yorker blog "The Book Bench."

"I think of Atlantic City and Niagara Falls in more or less the same way: as exemplary American cities with distinctive, even romantic histories, that have in recent decades fallen upon hard economic times and become dependent upon casino gambling for some sort of financial redemption," Oates told Treisman.

The interview describes Oates' short story, "I.D.," which appears in this week's New Yorker.

The story -- which Oates told Treisman "could have readily have been set in Niagara Falls" -- involves a murdered woman in Atlantic City.

Read the entire Oates interview here.

-- Denise Jewell Gee

Buffalo Niagara? Not yet for Niagara

The Niagara USA 2010 visitors guide is out.

The 56-page magazine promotes everything in Niagara County from the Ransomville Speedway to Fatima Shrine.

What you won't find are listings for cultural attractions in Erie County like the Darwin Martin House, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the Burchfield Penney Art Center.

Why not? That was a question raised at a meeting of tourism representatives Thursday morning in Niagara Falls as the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. unveiled a new two-year marketing strategy.

NTCC President John Percy told tourism leaders that the agency has discussed how much focus it should give cultural attractions in neighboring counties.

"We've had this discussion over and over," Percy said. "We do promote it. It's not specifically in our visitors guide. The unfortunate thing is the cost of the visitors guide. ... It's where do you stop?"

Adding more attractions outside of Niagara County, Percy said, means adding more pages to the guide at a significant cost to the NTCC.

Pamela Forge, publisher of "Explore New York," attended Thursday's meeting and had a different take.

"I think I can shed light on that," Forge said after the meeting. "Most counties, because of the government funding and bed tax, have to be parochial about things. It's a shame."

Read more about the NTCC's new two-year marketing strategy here.

Listen to Percy describe the marketing strategy in this audio clip:

-- Denise Jewell Gee

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