Wednesday, December 31, 2008

JANUARY POLL: BONA'S LEGACY

We just completed our first-ever monthly poll on this website. December's survey asked folks what they thought about the town of Royalton's budget. Here's what they said...

Too big: 50%
Too small: 27%
Just right: 11%
Undecided: 11%

January's survey asks your opinion of Paul Bona's legacy at Roy-Hart. It's a timely question because with his retirement looming at the end of the school year the district is in the process of finding his replacement. The three finalists will be meeting with the public in January.

It will be interesting to see how the survey pans out. Roy-Hart issues always seem to be the most popular on this website and the concerned parents and taxpayers either love the guy or hate the guy.

Monday, December 29, 2008

MOTHER NATURE'S FURY

Snowbirds: you missed a fun weekend here in Gasport!

On Friday and Saturday we experienced a major thaw and a lot of rain. Some spots in Niagara County had nearly 1.5" inch of rain, others had annecdotal reports of 3". Coupled with the melting of 18" of snow, that really satuarated the area. Red Creek flooded so badly it was just a foot and a half away from Wheeler Road at one point...and sump pumps were running continuously.

On Sunday we were smacked with hurricane force winds. Trees and power lines snapped everywhere and the police scanner was alive with calls for downed lines and out-of-service traffic lights everywhere. I drove around to take a look and found a tree across Dale Road at Red Creek, littered yards, a half-dozen calf huts blown into a hedgerow 1/2 of a mile from their farm, and the power poles on Orangeport Road playing jump rope with the power lines.


The Lockport US&J reports....

WEATHER: High winds whip through area, leaving damage, outages

Winds of up to 60 mph tore through Niagara County on Sunday, leaving behind some property damage and more than 2,000 customers without power in the city and Town of Lockport.

A number of trees knocked over and uprooted by the wind fell onto houses, a garage and into the street. Branches, garbage cans and all kinds of materials blew through the streets for most of the day Sunday.

The National Weather Service issued a high wind warning for all of Niagara County that expired at 8 p.m. Sunday. A warning is issued when sustained winds of 40 mph are expected for at least an hour and with gusts of 58 mph or greater at any time. The service said a powerful cold front crossed the state Sunday morning and continued to the East Coast throughout the day. That brought the damaging winds, mostly from the southwest, which diminished some a little later in the evening. Gusts were expected to continue through the evening before dying out overnight. The National Weather Service clocked the highest winds in Western New York at about 75 miles per hour at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

There is also a flood warning from the weather service for today for some areas around Tonawanda Creek at Batavia and Rapids. Those areas include North Amherst, North Clarence, Royalton and Newstead. The service said the warning started Sunday night and continues into Tuesday night. Water levels are expected to reach at least 16 feet and could close roads such as Millersport Highway and Tonawanda Creek Road. Tonawanda Creek was expected to rise above 12 feet at midnight Sunday and reach 15 feet by Tuesday morning.

The Niagara County Sheriff’s Department released a statement asking motorists to be extra cautious while driving on county roads. “The combination of melting snow and rainfall over the last 24 hours has caused flooding problems throughout the county,” the statement read. Signs and barricades are being posted in areas where flooding is possible. Drivers should watch out for standing water in roadways and avoid driving in flooded areas. The department said the roads that could have flooding problems are Drum Road in Hartland, the village of Middleport, Riddle and Simms Roads in Royalton, Royal Parkway in Lockport and Wheatfield-Pendleton Townline Road in Pendleton.


To read the entire article, go here:

http://www.lockportjournal.com/local/local_story_364000428.html

Sunday, December 28, 2008

GASPORT'S BIGGEST STORIES OF 2008

With 2008 coming to a close, it’s time to reflect on what happened this year. What do you think were the biggest stories of the year in Gasport during 2008?

Was it….

The crime spree

St. Mary’s closing

Paul Bona announcing his retirement

Another successful Royalton Fourth of July

The new assessments in Royalton

New businesses: Chops Shop Pizza, White Pines Nursery and the return of Udder Delights

The theft of money from Hartland bingo

$323,000 in Medicaid fraud from a Gasport businesswoman

The furor over the size of kindergarten classes

The 20-point buck taken in Gasport

Royalton increasing employees’ wage and benefits

Marcy Cole’s arrests and court proceedings

The MRSA scare at Roy-Hart

Voters approving the $8 million renovations of the Roy-Hart schools

January’s lockdown at Roy-Hart because of a gun threat


Or, was it another news story?

All of these newsy items – and more – can be read about it in the archives of this blog.

There are far too many events to add to the survey function of this website, so please feel free to use the comment tool to share your thoughts with everyone.

ANOTHER ROBBERY IN GASPORT

Just after 6:00 AM today there was a call on the police scanner to Orangeport Road where an individual witnessed someone breaking into his neighbor's garage and stealing a motorcycle.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

SUICIDE IN ROYALTON

The holiday season can, for many people, be the most depressing time of the year. Add to that the financial stress of the global recession and it has become even more difficult for some. Such depression came forth in our fair town today...just after 1:40 PM there was a call on the police scanner to Royalton Center Road for a hanging. The outcome may not have been good as it was heard on air that the individual was in cardiac arrest. Keep that person's family in your prayers!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

St. MARY'S SCENE FINDS NEW HOME IN LOCKPORT

The Lockport US&J reports....

Helen Burdett, 85, is still a bit unsettled with the Diocese of Buffalo merger that meant St. Mary’s of Gasport became part of St. John the Baptist, but now she is a part of the Catholic Church on Chestnut Street. The mother of four had been a member of St. Mary’s since it was dedicated in 1968.

Ten years later, she created a nativity set for the small church on West Avenue. With the merger, Burdett offered the nativity set to St. John’s, but didn’t know if the city’s largest Catholic parish would have a place for it.

It turns out, there is a proper place for it. Her work is on display in a window cove to the left of the pulpit. “When I looked at it on Sunday, I was so surprised,” she said. “I was hoping St. John’s would accept it, and they did. I was happy. It has a home.”

Burdett started the project 30 years ago with three pieces, Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus. She pictured a spot for the Holy Family in front of St. Mary’s and went to work. She found the raw pieces at a shop in Clarence, where they were baked in a large oven. It was a mess when she started, and the pieces had to be cleaned of excess clay, sanded and painted. She wanted them done for Christmas 1977.

“I got hepatitis from making those three and I didn’t know if I would ever finish it,” she said. “I must have 20 coats of spray on them, every morning, every night and in between. I did that in the house, and I didn’t know the effects. The next year, I was smarter. I did them outside.”

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver and it can be caused by one of many things — including by a toxin in the air.

Burdett found the rest of pieces for the nativity the next year. “They OK’d me and it was all right,” she said. “I didn’t have to be hospitalized and I went ahead and got the rest of them.”

The ceramic set has sheep and shepherds, kings and camels, a stable and crib on straw, plus an angel overlooking Bethlehem.


To the read the entire article, go here:

http://www.lockportjournal.com/local/local_story_359235535.html

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

PROSPECT STREET RR CROSSING TO STAY OPEN

I (and many others) just received this e-mail from Senator Maziarz's office...

Dear Friend,

You may have heard that the NYS Department of Transportation was thinking of closing the rail crossings at Orchard Street in Middleport and Prospect Street in Gasport to vehicular traffic.

I'm very pleased to report to you that this is not going to happen.

Last year many local residents spoke out against these closings because they would have disrupted traffic patterns and made it more difficult for first responders and law enforcement officials to respond to emergencies.

Fortunately, the bureaucracy at the DOT has seen it our way and relented. We successfully convinced them that keeping these crossings open was in the public's best interest.

Sincerely,

George Maziarz
Senator, 62nd District

P.S. I hope this good news finds you well this holiday season. Please accept my best wishes for a healthy and happy 2009!

TALK OF THE TOWN BURGALRIZED

The Niagara County Sheriff's Department reports that overnight Sunday someone broke into the Talk of the Town restaurant and stole $150 in cash from the register. The damage to the door and door frame is estimated at $240.

If you saw anything suspicious call the Sheriff's Department at 438.3393.

Monday, December 22, 2008

TODAY'S HARTLAND POLICE BLOTTER

DISPUTE: A Hartland Road man reported Friday afternoon that his landlord took the keys out of his snowmobile. The landlord had reportedly told the man snowmobiles were not allowed on the premises, and when the man went to move the snowmobile, he found the keys, worth about $25, had been stolen. The man did not wish to press charges, he just wanted to keys back, the report said. The landlord returned the keys after deputies arrived.

HARASSMENT: A Ridge Road man reported Wednesday morning that he received a phone call from a man he is involved in legal action with. The caller reportedly told the man, “I have friends, and I will shoot your lawyer.” He also reportedly mentioned knowing where the man lived and threatened to damage his business.

COLE IS ONE OF YEAR'S TOP STORIES

The Lockport US&J is running their Top 10 Stories of 2008. Coming in at #10...the Marcy Cole saga...

http://www.lockportjournal.com/local/local_story_356225120.html

Sunday, December 21, 2008

ABSOLUT OF GASPORT IS A 3-STAR NURSING HOME

Medicare recently launched an addition to its website where the federal government shares its assessment of the more than 16,000 nursing homes in the USA. It's done in a 5-star rating system. Nationally, 12% of all homes got a 5-star rating while 22% received a lowly 1. The remaining 66% were evenly distributed among 2, 3, and 4 stars.

Gasport's nursing home -Absolut - received a 3-star rating. It got 4/5 on health inspections, 2 out of 5 for staffing, and 1 out of 5 for quality measures.

To see the system, go www.medicare.gov

Friday, December 19, 2008

RTE. 77 IS OPEN AGAIN

Route 77 opened back up at 7:15.

TRACTOR TRAILER OVERTURNS ON RTE. 77

There have been numerous vehicles heading into the ditches today. The biggest snow-storm-created mess so far: around 2:30 a tractor trailer overturned on Rte. 77 near Royalton Center. So, if you need to travel that way, find an alternate route.

THE SHORT LIST FOR BONA'S REPLACEMENT

The Buffalo News updates us on the quest to find Paul Bona's replacement...

The Royalton- Hartland School Board has selected three final candidates for superintendent. The three finalists are Joseph Hochreiter, deputy superintendent of the Elmira City School District; Thomas Manko, superintendent of York Central School District; and Kevin MacDonald, assistant superintendent of Orleans-Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

Each finalist will meet all day with teachers, PTA leaders, district boosters, students, staff and administrators the week of Jan. 19. Community sessions with similar opportunities for input are scheduled for Jan. 20, 22 and 23 from 5:30 until 6:15 p. m. for the various candidates, district officials said Wednesday. One candidate will be available each evening.

“The board is very pleased with the quality of the 18 applications that were received,” School Board President Patricia Riegle said in a prepared release. “The three finalists have the desired professional qualifications and attributes that the Board is seeking for this critical leadership position.”

The new superintendent will replace Paul J. Bona, who is set to retire June 30 after being the district’s chief educational officer for the past 10 years.

Those with questions can call search consultant Clark Godshall, Orleans-Niagara BOCES superintendent and superintendent search consultant, at (800) 836-7510, Ext. 2201.

JOHNSON CREEK HOME DESTROYED BY FIRE

A fire that may have started in a wood-burning stove destroyed a home at 3116 Johnson Creek Road on Tuesday, Hartland Assistant Fire Chief Thomas Sullivan said Thursday. Hartland volunteers fought the blaze with volunteers from Gasport, Middleport and Barker after firefighters were called to the scene at 5 p. m.

Allen K. Sliger, the homeowner, and his family were not home when the fire started, Sullivan said. The fire appeared to have started in the rear of the house. Sullivan said the family told firefighters they had left ashes in the wood-burning stove, though the cause remains under investigation. The Red Cross is providing help to the family.

Smoke and water damage to the structure was estimated at $90,000.

GASPORT BINGO IS CANCELLED

Now you know the weather is bad: Friday night Bingo at the fire hall has been cancelled.

SNOW DAY AT ROY-HART

School is cancelled today in anticipation of the big storm.

Here's the storm warning....

Today: Snow and areas of blowing snow, mainly after 11am. The snow could be heavy at times. Some thunder is also possible. High near 26. East wind between 10 and 18 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. Total daytime snow accumulation of 6 to 10 inches possible.

Tonight: Snow and areas of blowing snow, mainly before 10pm. Low around 12. Wind chill values as low as -1. Blustery, with a northeast wind 18 to 21 mph decreasing to between 10 and 13 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

HARTLAND BINGO THIEF GETS PROBATION

The Buffalo News reports....

A woman who stole $8,554 from the Hartland Volunteer Fire Company’s bingo receipts to finance her gambling activities was placed on five years’ probation Tuesday and ordered to pay back the money during that period.

Niagara County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III said Lee Ann Smith, 46, of Ridge Road, Hartland, must pay at least $150 per month and continue with counseling for gambling addiction. She must avoid Internet gambling sites and buying lottery tickets as conditions of probation.

Smith was chairwoman of the bingo games when she skimmed receipts for her own use between Jan. 1 and April 22. She had pleaded guilty to fourth-degree grand larceny. Murphy said he received a letter from the fire company alleging the amount stolen was $9,900, but it was too late to change the restitution amount unless Smith withdrew her guilty plea, which she did not do.


Source: http://www.buffalonews.com/437/story/525590.html

BURGLAR TO GET JAIL TIME

One of the young punks who put fear into homeowners all across Gasport this Summer is getting well-deserved jail time.

The Buffalo News reports....


LOCKPORT — An East High Street teenager hasn’t pleaded guilty, but Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza let him know Tuesday he is facing hard prison time for a spree of burglaries and auto thefts in Lockport, Gasport and Middleport this fall.

Sperrazza told Dennis Schultz, 17, that she has ruled out youthful offender status and will not be sentencing him to boot camp-style “shock incarceration.” Schultz is charged with breaking into five houses and a shed and stealing six cars.

Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann offered Schultz the opportunity to wrap up the case by pleading guilty before indictment to two Class D felonies and one Class E felony. The case was adjourned until Jan. 7 so Schultz could think about it. Sperrazza said she would consider concurrent sentencing on the multiple counts, which would make the maximum term seven years.

Assistant Public Defender Michael E. Benedict said co-defendant Benjamin Stump, 19, of Washburn Street, has been offered a plea to two Class D felonies. Hoffmann said Stump participated in all the burglaries but just two of the auto thefts, both of which were connected with burglaries.

Source: http://www.buffalonews.com/437/story/525589.html

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

NEW YEARS EVE IN HARTLAND

Are you looking to party close to home this New Year's Eve? You need look no further than the Hartland Fire Hall. For $25 you'll get to hear a band while stuffing your face at a buffet. Doors open at 6:00 and dinner starts at 7:00. For tickets, stop by the Hartland Fire Hall this Thursday night.

CREEP GETS 18 YEARS OUT OF ROYALTON ASSUALT

The Buffalo News reports on a criminal who sexually assaulted a Royalton girl and was rewarded with 2 more years in jail instead of receiving sex offender status. I think he deserved the label...


Kenneth B. Rouse, 26, who was charged with stabbing a Lockport man in the chest during a break-in at the victim’s home and also with sexually assaulting an adolescent Royalton girl in her home, pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary and attempted third-degree burglary.

Rouse was promised a sentence of 18 years in prison by Judge Matthew J. Murphy III, who accepted the recommendation of Assistant District Attorney Robert A. Zucco. The prison term will be followed by five years of post-release supervision. Last week, Zucco gave Rouse two choices: a 16-year prison term for pleading guilty to first-degree burglary in the Lockport case and attempted first-degree sexual abuse in the Royalton case.

Or, Zucco said, if Rouse wanted to avoid registering as a sex offender — and 25 years of post-release supervision — he could choose a plea of attempted third-degree burglary in the Royalton matter and take an 18-year prison term. That’s what Rouse chose Monday.

However, after closed-door talks Monday among Murphy, Zucco and defense attorney David C. Douglas, the terms were tweaked. Even though Rouse took the 18-year option, Murphy agreed to cut the sentence to 16 years if Rouse gives prosecutors some information on another case.


The article goes on to describe how he violated the girl....


Rouse...entered a home on Akron Road in Royalton on Jan. 18 and sexually assaulted a girl who let him into the home after being tricked into believing Rouse had been sent by the girl’s mother.


Source: http://www.buffalonews.com/cityregion/niagaracounty/story/524573.html

COMPTROLLER'S AUDIT OF ROY-HART NOW AVAILABLE

The higly-anticipated audit of the Royalton-Hartland school district from State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's office was released today. The 13-page document can be downloaded here:

http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/audits/schools/2008/royaltonhartland.pdf

DiNapoli's exceutive summary says this was Roy-Hart's biggest flaw:


Internal Controls Over Student Transportation Services

The district did not monitor transportation services or the fuel delivered to the transportation vendor’s facility. District officials did not compare the information on the monthly invoices submitted by the transportation vendor to the daily vehicle inspection reports to determine if the amounts billed were accurate. In addition, the vendor used the district-contracted buses to transport district students and students from neighboring districts on shared bus routes to the same academic locations outside of the district. The vendor billed all the districts for these shared bus routes. However, the district incurred the cost of the fuel used on the eight shared bus routes. The cost was not charged to any of the other four districts and there was nothing in the contract to indicate that the district will be reimbursed or otherwise credited for the fuel used on the shared bus routes.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

RESIDENCY DRAMA AT ROY-HART

Here is a story from the Lockport US&J about a residency problem for two students wanting to play for Roy-Hart's basketball team.....


Harringtons appealing to state, R-H board
Gasport man wants his daughters to return to school immediately

The fate of two Gasport student-athletes who have been refused residency and denied registration into the Royalton-Hartland School District may be in the hands of that district’s Board of Education, while an appeal is being launched with the state.

In a letter to the district board, dated Wednesday, Kevin Harrington of 7963 Telegraph Road, said he’s appealing to the New York Education Department in Albany to allow his twin daughters, Jenna and Kim, to attend nearby Roy-Hart High School.

“I have been informed by my attorney, Jay Pletcher, that the (R-H) school board has the power to enact their own stay, which will enable the twins to attend school immediately, pending the outcome of the appeal which I have initiated,” the letter states. “I am appealing to the board members to enact this stay so that my daughters will be allowed to enter school immediately. They have already missed 19 school days (and 27 days overall) and my concern is that this appeal could take weeks. I have also been informed by my attorney that no school board member can be held liable either individually or as a group, by initiating their own stay, pending the appeal process.”

The unusual and bitter dilemma has already taken its toll on the twin juniors, who have missed the last four-plus weeks of public school as a result. Harrington said he’s been trying to enroll his daughters at Roy-Hart since mid-November. However, their efforts at gaining admittance into Roy-Hart have hit one brick wall after another and they’re currently being tutored privately at their father’s expense.

School Superintendent Paul Bona said the issue is “primary residency” and whether or not the family has provided the documentation to prove it. “The issue is you have to demonstrate primary residency in the school district you are to attend. If you cannot demonstrate primary residency, you can pay tuition as an option and many people elect to do that — it depends on the avenue the family wants to take,” Bona said. “The district has retained the services of council to help make this determination. The issue is — and we won’t stray from that — is where is the primary residency — and by definition it’s your legal residence — where you pay your taxes.”

Kevin Harringtons is currently renting at his new residence and counters by saying if his girls are not eligible for enrollment at R-H because he does not pay R-H district school taxes, so is every other R-H student whose parents and/or guardians are renting.

And the frustrations over a matter that should have taken days instead of weeks to resolve have been mounting slowly, but surely over the past month. Two weeks ago, Bona asked Kevin Harrington to sign an agreement stating that his daughters — outstanding student-athletes at Lockport High School for the past several years — would be allowed into the Roy-Hart district only if they, “agree not to seek membership on this season’s Royalton-Hartland Central School District basketball team.” On the advice of his attorney, Kevin Harrington said he’s refused to sign such a document and adds that he’s complied with every residency requirement asked of him.

Bona said the case remains in the hands of attorneys on both sides.“I can’t litigate the case with you in the newspaper. Under rules of confidentiality, I can’t say anything because it’s in the hands of counsel,” Bona said.

Harrington said he’s further mystified by a morning visit paid to his home on Tuesday of this week by board vice president Dan Bragg and Bona. The twins were sleeping at the time of the visit, but were awaken by members of the family and talked briefly to Bragg. However, less than two hours after the board member talked to the girls and reportedly told them they might be back in school within days, the Harrington family received a letter in the mail from Roy-Hart school district attorneys Norton, Radin, Hoover and Freedman stating the girls are not entitled to attend Roy-Hart.

“If they knew we were going to be denied, what was the purpose of that visit?” Kevin Harrington asked.

Bona acknowledged he made a personal visit to the Harrington home on Telegraph Road, but said he remained in an automobile while Bragg entered the residence and added that he did not know the letter had been sent or that it stated the girls were denied enrollment. “I did not physically see the twins, but Mr. Bragg said he did,” Bona said. “He saw the girls, but they still have not determined primary residency. I had requested that a decision be made by our counsel as soon as possible. They said they would make a decision as quickly as possible and get it to the family,” Bona said. “He worked on it and got it out on Monday night’s mail. I was in administrative meetings and in the afternoon on Tuesday, yes, I did go over and ride by the house. I was doing things we need to do to provide information to counsel,” Bona said, adding that he will notify district lawyers that both girls were present at the residence when they visited.

Source: http://www.lockportjournal.com/archivesearch/local_story_345231359.html

Thursday, December 11, 2008

GASPORT STREET VIEWS

Local blogger MJ at http://lockportforum.blogspot.com/ has keenly pointed out that Google Street View is now available for this region, showing detailed pics of local homes and businesses.

A lot of Gasport can be found on the system....and a lot of it can't.

Check it out: http://maps.google.com/help/maps/streetview/index.html



View Larger Map

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

SALVIA: TODAY'S #1 DRUG FOR YOUTH

As a public service to parents of school kids and college students, here's my newspaper column of the week:

SALIVATING OVER SALVIA
By Bob Confer

When drug users quibble over what hallucinogenic drugs create the strongest trips they generally rate LSD as number one, followed closely by Salvia divinorum.

Most everyone is familiar with LSD. It’s a storied substance that routinely makes the headlines, getting a fair amount of well-deserved bad press. On top of that, it’s a Schedule 1 drug that is illegal to manufacture, possess, buy, or distribute in the United States. Despite the image and the laws, in 2006 some 23 million Americans were estimated to have used the drug in their lifetimes.

Salvia, on the other hand, is a relatively unknown drug. It gets almost no major media attention and is legal to distribute and posses in all but a dozen states. You may not know about Salvia, but there’s a very good chance your children do, maybe even intimately.

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, Salvia is the latest craze in the youth drug culture, quickly becoming the drug of choice. Word about its dissociative abilities has spread like wildfire on the web and kids find themselves amused by – and therefore curious of – its effects after viewing any one of the thousands of Salvia trip videos that are available on YouTube, Google Video, and the like. They’re easily able to see their peers acting erratically, aggressively, and dangerously, even driving while under the influence of the herb. Go online and give it a look. If you have even a modicum of maturity you’ll find these videos disturbing.

The net not only promotes Salvia, but it sells it, too. This makes it ungodly easy for youth to get their mitts on a potent drug. No longer do they have to worry about breaking a law or dealing with questionable and dangerous drug pushers. It’s all just a mouse-click away.

A quick search will show hundreds of internet companies selling Salvia. A relatively cheap high, anyone can buy it for as little as $9 gram to as much as $64 per gram depending on the strength. And, unfortunately, it’s delivered incognito. In most cases it arrives via standard mail in an envelope or as a package from what appears to be a reputable supplement/health company along the lines of GNC. Few parents would question their children on either count.

Because of the congruence of all these factors, use of Salvia has exploded. In the past twelve months alone, over 750,000 have used it for the first time. One online vendor brags that his sales to New York State have increased by 1,000 percent in the past half-year.

Yes, you read that right. The Empire State, usually the state to have more laws than any other, has no restrictions on Salvia. So, there’s a very good chance that high school and college students you know have used the stuff.

This legal impasse is not for a lack of trying. For the past five legislative sessions the State Senate has passed a series of bills that make the sale and or possession of Salvia on offense in New York State. In each and every session the Assembly has put them out to die in committee. This year was no different. Bill S.695, sponsored by Senator Flanagan of Long Island, would make it illegal to peddle the plant in NY. It was overwhelmingly passed by the Senate back in February. Since then, the Assembly has let the bill (as A.610) sit idle in the economic development committee. Other bills, like Senator Maziarz’s attempt to identify Salvia as an LSD-type controlled substance (S.7736) have been met with disdain. That said, it’s imperative that you contact your assemblyperson and ask him or her to support such legislation when it returns to the floor in 2009.

If they fail to make headway yet again, which is likely and unconscionable, it might be up to our local elected officials to succeed where Albany has failed. The county legislators would need only to follow the lead of Suffolk County. There, back in April of this year, it was signed into local law that possession or sale of Salvia in the county is a misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

As long as the laws allow it, kids will continue to use this weed, putting them and their companions in peril. It’s up to you as a parent or friend to make yourself aware of this insidious, easily-acquired drug. With no laws on the books it will be up to you to make law in your home.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

WHERE TO BUY A CHRISTMAS TREE IN GASPORT

If you're looking to get a Christmas tree in Gasport - and I always support "buying local" - you have plenty of good choices in our community. This list is a start...I will add more as I discover other vendors.

Becker Farms: The agricultural theme park on Quaker Road sells freshly cut trees during regular business hours all days of the week.

Merrell's Evergreen Acres: Located on Wruck Road, they offer fresh cut and "you cut", available Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 9 to 5.

Bucolo Greenhouse & Farm: They offer fresh cut trees at the corner of Slayton Settlement and Orangeport Roads. Hours are Mon - Fri, Noon to 8 and Saturdays and Sundays from 9:00 to 4:00

Rickards Tree Nursery: Located on Checkered Tavern Road, halfway between Wheeler and Ellicott, you can pick your own or get a fresh cut from 10 to 4 Friday through Sunday.

Friday, December 5, 2008

LAKE SNOW ADVISORY

Anytime I post a warning or advisory on here it ends up being a lie, so I hestitate in adding this...



NIAGARA-ORLEANS-INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...NIAGARA FALLS...MEDINA

128 PM EST FRI DEC 5 2008...

LAKE EFFECT SNOW ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 6 PM THIS EVENING TO6 AM EST SATURDAY...

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BUFFALO HAS ISSUED A LAKE EFFECT SNOW ADVISORY...WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 6 PM THIS EVENING TO 6 AM EST SATURDAY.

LAKE EFFECT SNOW WILL MOVE INTO THE SOUTHERN PORTIONS NIAGARA ANDORLEANS COUNTY THIS EVENING AND SPREAD ACROSS THE REMAINDER OF THETWO COUNTIES OVERNIGHT. THIS WILL CREATE HAZARDOUS DRIVINGCONDITIONS.

TOTAL ACCUMULATIONS OF 4 TO 7 INCHES ARE EXPECTED WITH THIS LAKE EFFECT SNOW EVENT. IN LAKE EFFECT SNOW THE WEATHER CAN VARY FROM LOCALLY HEAVY SNOWIN NARROW BANDS TO CLEAR SKIES JUST A FEW MILES AWAY. IF YOU WILLBE TRAVELING ACROSS THE REGION BE PREPARED FOR RAPID CHANGES INROAD AND VISIBILITY CONDITIONS. STAY TUNED TO NOAA WEATHER RADIO OR YOUR FAVORITE SOURCE OF WEATHER INFORMATION FOR THE LATESTUPDATES.

ADDITIONAL DETAILS CAN ALSO BE FOUND ATWWW.WEATHER.GOV/BUFFALO.

CHRISTMAS AT THE SCHOOLHOUSE

Christmas at the Schoolhouse will take place this Sunday at the town of Hartland's cobblestone schoolhouse. Festivities begin at 11 a. m. and run until 5 p. m., with a $7 ham dinner, raffles, a 50/50 split, door prizes and Christmas carols sung around a decorative, real tree.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

WINE TRAIL EVENT NEXT TWO WEEKENDS

Vizcarra Vineyards at Becker Farms will be seeing a lot of visitors the next two weekends as a part of a special wine trail event, one that is always the Trail's most popular. Here's the lowdown from the Wine Trail's website:


December 6 & 7 and 13 & 14: Holiday Happening

Second Weekend Added!! Your wine trail ticket is now good for two weekends! Come either weekend or both. Pay one price to taste at all twelve wineries to relax, taste wine and do your holiday shopping!

Collect a Christmas ornament at each winery on the trail while you Celebrate the Season. $35/couple or $20/person receive a commemorative wine glass and ornament (one ornament/couple, while supplies last) at the first winery of your choice and complete the ornament set as you sample wine at each winery along the trail. Ticket includes wine tasting at each winery.

Pre-sale tickets are available now in our online store or at any of these following wineries during the event: Arrowhead Spring Vineyards, Eveningside Vineyards, Freedom Run, Honeymoon Trail, Leonard Oakes, Marjim Manor, Niagara Landing, Schulze Vineyard & Winery, Spring Lake Winery, Vizcarra Vineyards

For more information go to www.niagarawinetrail.org

THE MITTEN TREE

The Lockport US&J has a nice story about the mitten tree, complete with a video of the event. Too see it all, go here:

http://www.lockportjournal.com/local/local_story_337233831.html

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

THE SEARCH FOR BONA'S REPLACEMENT

The Buffalo News reports on the search for Bona's replacement. My first thought: "$150,000??!! Are you kidding me??!!!"



Strong lineup seen for school chief job

It appears the Royalton-Hartland School Board may find a new school superintendent in February to replace the retiring Paul J. Bona. Bona is set to retire June 30 after 10 years at Roy-Hart’s helm.

Clark Godshall, superintendent of the Orleans-Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services, is assisting Roy-Hart with its search for a new educational chief. He said last week that things have been moving well and he expects to have a good lineup of candidates for the board to consider within the next 10 days.

“We’ve been advertising for about two months and expect to receive anywhere from 15 to 17 applications by Dec. 5,” the deadline for submissions, Godshall said. “After working on 29 superintendent searches, this is probably one of the strongest pools of candidates I’ve seen. About half of them are experienced school superintendents. I think that’s a very good sign,” Godshall added.

He said he will open and review the applications on Dec. 5. “After that the board will be able to review them and screen the number of candidates down to about six semi-finalists before the holidays and do some interviewing in that time,” Godshall said.

In January, the board will narrow the field to three or four finalists. Then the candidates will come here for a day to speak to stakeholder groups like the teachers and the administrators and meet with the board again. Hopefully, in February, the board will pick a candidate and start negotiating a contract, he said.

He said the board has set the maximum salary at about $150,000, which may include money for fringe benefits. He said salary and benefits will all be up for negotiation.

If all goes well, Godshall said the board should be able to appoint a new superintendent by March 1. He said the new superintendent would probably not be able to start here until June 1 so he or she can give the current district 90 days notice before leaving.

He said he has been working with the various stakeholder groups to develop the questions they need to ask the candidates when they meet with them in January.


Source: http://www.buffalonews.com/cityregion/niagaracounty/story/509975.html

Monday, December 1, 2008

THE HARTLAND SCHOOLHOUSE

The Buffalo News ran a nice story about the Hartland Schoolhouse in Sunday's paper. Here it is...

Restoring a unique history lesson

HARTLAND — The oldest cobblestone one-room schoolhouse in Niagara County — predating the Civil War — will be the site of the annual “Christmas at the Schoolhouse” celebration next Sunday. Owned by the Hartland Historical Society for nearly a decade, preservationists are working hard to restore the District 10 School to its original charm in time for the town’s bicentennial celebration in 2012, Hartland Town Historian Norm LaJoie recently told The Buffalo News. “Christmas in the Schoolhouse” is one of the main fundraisers the group uses each year to help defray the costs of restoring the District 10 School, built in 1845 at Seaman and Carmen roads. The hardy cobblestone building was used as a school for more than a century and, later, as a residence. It currently serves as the Historical Society’s headquarters. Festivities begin at 11 a. m. and run until 5 p. m., with a $7 ham dinner, raffles, a 50/50 split, door prizes and Christmas carols sung around a decorative, real tree, said Kathy Curry, who has served as society president for the past eight years. The society also will have a number of local historical record books on hand for people interested in researching the history of the town and its residents.

The Historical Society has completely restored the roof, added a new furnace, replaced windows and rebuilt a missing chimney. Much of that work fell to Melvin Nichols, a local carpenter and society member. Society members also hired an experienced mason, Charles Dietz of Lockport, and his son, Charlie, to replace exterior cobblestone walls that had been cut away for a picture window and door when the structure served as a residence.

State Sen. George Maziarz, RNewfane, has helped procure grants totaling $10,000, while Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, D-Lewiston, added a $8,000 grant to help the society complete a great deal of work in the past nine years.

“But we still need the floor to be completely removed and replaced,” LaJoie said. “We need to go down to the dirt and rebuild the beams and then rebuild the floor. We’re looking at pine flooring, characteristic of what we’d see in old schoolhouses.”

Cobblestone buildings are terrifically sturdy with their 14-to 16- inch-thick stone walls, Curry pointed out. “The only thing that’ll take down a cobblestone building is a leak in the roof,” she said.

There are a total of nine cobblestone buildings still in existence in Hartland. All are private residences except for the schoolhouse.

In 1900, there were 18 school districts in town, located every few miles, as the children had to walk to school and back home, LaJoie said. The 37-by-27-foot District 10 School is on the state and national registers of historic places. It operated as a schoolhouse for pupils in kindergarten through grade eight from 1845 to 1947 and stood idle until 1953, when town schools in the area were centralized. The property and its contents were auctioned off and the school became a private residence. In the fall of 1998, the house was made available through the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Historical Society became its new owner in March 1999.

In the old days, families of the children attending local schoolhouses helped finance, build and maintain them, so the more-affluent districts had cobblestone or brick schools and the less-affluent districts had what amounted to wooden shacks, LaJoie explained. The majority were built of wood. There was only one other cobblestone schoolhouse in the town, District 11 on Johnson Creek Road, but it was torn down after years of sitting idle.

In restoring the District 10 schoolhouse to circa 1845, LaJoie said the society must be diligent to keep everything accurate to the period. That includes not hanging a picture of Abraham Lincoln — who was often paired with George Washington in old schoolhouses — because he was not elected president until 16 years after the schoolhouse was built.

Society members are also hunting for “the side-by-side, two-seater desks [on one bench] and slate blackboards — these have been the two hardest things to find,” Curry said. “The only place I’ve seen these desks is on ‘Little House on the Prairie.’ I’ve even gone on eBay, but the two-seater desks I find are one seat in front of the other, not one wide enough for two to sit side-by-side.”

Historians know that District 10 used real slate blackboards. Curry said some of the more financially strapped districts had to use plain boards painted black instead of slate.

“I think the search is the interesting part,” Curry said. “We do have some books that were used in this school. People had them in their basements or attics.”

“And we find them at yard sales,” LaJoie said.

“I can’t wait to have the [former] school kids come in because the stories are what make the school come alive,” said LaJoie, who has interviewed a few people who attended the District 10 school.

LaJoie recorded this memory of a District 10 student from the 1930s: “Children playing, knocked the top off of the old pot belly stove, and the thing rolled down on the floor; then the stovepipes that ran the entire length of the building began to fall. There was dirt all over, clouds of soot rising in the air and hot coals all over the floor. Water from the drinking bucket was poured on the coals and then all was shoveled outside.”

Restoring a 163-year-old cobblestone building can be costly. Society members also run the popular “snack shack” at the Little League games from April until August at the Hartland Town Park, with proceeds going toward the restoration project.

The historical society meets in the schoolhouse at 7 p. m. on the second Monday of each month, with the option of moving the meetings to Hartland Town Hall in January, February and March if the weather is inclement. Anyone is welcome to attend a meeting and join the society, regardless of residency.

Source: http://www.buffalonews.com/cityregion/niagaracounty/story/509124.html

CATCH ME ON THE RESTAINO SHOW THIS THURSDAY

My column for this week's Greater Niagara Newspapers focuses on Obama's assault on the second amendment. As a follow-up, I'll be the guest on The John Restaino Show this Thursday, December 4th from 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM on 1440 WJJL. John is a liberal-minded Obama supporter who likes our current restrictive gun laws and wants to see more like them. It should be a good debate.

MONTHLY SURVEY

A new tool has been added to this website...a survey. Most online newspapers have jumped on to this gimmick, so I figured we should, too, addressing issues of importance to Gasport residents. The survey can be found in the right tool bar. This month's survey looks at the town of Royalton's 2009 budget. (Note: I have started from scratch from the survey of earlier this morning. I forgot to add "just right").