Saturday, May 31, 2008


Beech trees have been one of the most dominant trees of Gasport's woodlots. That reign of dominance is at its end.

If you have a woodlot chock full of older trees, you'll find this familiar tree to be one of the four or five most prolific species. It's unmistakable with its smooth grey bark, spike-covered nuts in the Fall (a favorite of squirrels, deer, and turkeys), and dead, dry leaves that stay on the branches throughout the winter. Appreciate them while you can....they'll be gone in a few years, leaving short, shrubby remnants.

Beech Bark Disease has finally made its way to Western New York en masse, killing these important trees in huge numbers. This European disease was first reported in the US in 1920. I am surprised it took this long to affect WNY.

This disease is a two-step ailment: First, a scale insect attacks the tree, leaving wounds. Secondly, two types of fungi enter the wounds, creating many, many cankers which basically rupture the bark and destroy the tree.

How do you stop it? You can't. Insecticides and fungicides are impractical in forest settings. The best you can do is remove the trees (turn 'em into firewood) before it spreads. Mother nature can help, too, by unleashing ladybugs on the insects (ladybugs LOVE scale).

Below are pictures showing progression of Beech Bark Disease on some Gasport beeches. The top picture shows a healthy beech. The middle one shows cankers taking over a tree. And the bottom pic shows obliterated bark from a soon to be dead tree.

Friday, May 30, 2008


'Cycling the Erie Canal' bike tour set for July

Registration is open for the annual Cycling the Erie Canal, a 400-mile bicycling tour from Buffalo to Albany scheduled for July 6-13. The eight-day recreational bicycling tour will help highlight the beauty, history, culture and recreational appeal of the Canal System and the Canalway Trail, a prime tourism destination in New York State. Riders of all abilities and ages are encouraged to sign up for this exciting and scenic tour. More than 500 cyclists, representing 39 states, participated in last year’s event. About one-third of the participants were from New York State.

Carmella R. Mantello, Director of the Canal Corporation, said, “As we gear up for the 10th anniversary of the Cycling the Erie Canal bike tour, there is much to celebrate as this annual event has grown tremendously throughout the years. The Canalway Trail has also experienced significant growth during the past decade and is a premier recreational, tourism and economic resource to New York State. The Canal Corporation is pleased to once again partner with Parks & Trails NY to sponsor the tenth annual Cycling the Erie Canal bike tour."

Robin Dropkin, Executive Director of Parks & Trails New York and organizer of the event, said, “Cycling the Erie Canal is a great way to see New York and to experience the fascinating history of the Erie Canal. Plus it’s fun—you meet interesting people from all over the country.”

The registration fee is $520 and includes: camping accommodations every evening with showers and toilet facilities; eight breakfasts and six dinners; two refreshment stops daily stocked with fruit, snacks and beverages; entertainment and historical presentations each evening; guided tours of the Canal, historic sites, museums and other attractions; T-shirt and water bottle; sag wagon and mobile mechanical support; baggage transport; daily maps and cue sheets; and marked routes. A shuttle will be available at the beginning of the ride to transport riders and their bicycles to Buffalo.

Two weekend ride options also are available, from Buffalo to Rochester/Pittsford on July 5-7 and from Canajoharie to Albany on July 11-13. For more information on Cycling the Erie Canal, email


If you see a bunch of bicycles out and about on Saturday, the riders are passing through as a part of the American Diabetes Association's Cure de Tour which starts at NCCC. For info visit:


Many people know Tim Durfy..."Durf"...who they call the Mayor of Terry's Corners. Here's a Greater Niagara Newspapers story about him...

INSIDE RACING: Firemen prove to be competitive
Enduro Series growing by leaps and bounds at the Big R

GASPORT — Don’t tell Ransomville Speedway race car drivers like Tim Durfy that the Enduro Series is a fun way to try and raise money for the volunteer fire company he’s been active at for 32 years. The fastest growing racing series in Western New York, the Bobcat of Buffalo Firehall Enduro Series, has quickly turned into one of the Big R’s most competitive, if not entertaining to an extreme.

“It’s the biggest thing in racing to come along in years,” said Durfy, owner of Durfy’s (the former Cam Gagliardi Wobble Shop) on Rochester Road and a driver for the Terry’s Corners Firehall.

“Last year we started with 13 cars and we finished with 18 at the end of the season. And this year — look, it took just two years for 30 firemen to build 30 cars. That’s unbelievable,” Durfy said.

Durfy and his rival from the Wilson Firehall, Jamie O’Donnell, said a big reason for its popularity is it’s a cheaper form of racing. Entry fees for the four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive cars are paid for by the series sponsor, Bobcat of Buffalo, with additional money coming from sponsors that include Durfy’s and Gippster Collision of Lewiston. The only way to win ($1,000 first prize that goes to the firehall) is to place first in the series at the end of the year.

Mark Brown from Wilson leads the Enduro Series with 120 points. O’Donnell is fourth (94) and Durfy (88) is tied for fifth.“It’s a cheaper way of racing, plus you’re dealing with volunteers — special people who step up to a challenge any time of day. They’re unique people,” O’Donnell said.

Currently, there are eight different firehalls with cars entered at Ransomville Speedway: Bergholz, Lewiston No. 1, Olcott, Ransomville, Terrys Corners, Wilson, Youngstown and Niagara Falls, Ontario.

O’Donnell and fellow Wilson driver Russ Jackman said Durfy’s competitiveness is obvious. “Durf’s a great guy and always one of the front-runners,” Jackman said.

Added O’Donnell, a record nine-time streets stock feature winner in 1995 at the Big R now working at Wilson Automotive, “If you look up racing, it’s ‘go fast.”Cars are numbered similarly to correspond to the fire company they represent. For example, Durfy drives car No. 25, while fellow Terry’s Corners firemen Nick Baes and Steven Baes, drive cars 125 and 325 respectively.

Durfy said the Enduro Racing Series, which resumes at the Big R on June 6, will continue to grow. “Erie County has 10,000 more firemen than we do. It’s just a matter time before more fire companies jump on board and have some fun,” Durfy said.


Thursday, May 29, 2008


Many people are unaware that Red Creek's portion that runs from the base of the mill pond on Slayton Settlement Road all the way to 18 Mile Creek has some excellent fishing. (Red Creek is also known as the East Branch of 18-Mile Creek). I've caught 3-pound smallmouth bass and 7-pound northern pike in Gasport's waters.

If you do fish Red Creek, don't eat what you catch. The fish pick up pollutants when they are in Newfane and Lockport downstream of the former industries that dumped pollutants in 18-Mile Creek for decades. Here's an abbreviated version of a Buffalo News story about the drainage system....

Niagara County fishing spot draws pollution warning

A controversial report exploring the possible link between industrial pollution and disease in the Great Lakes region includes two area waterways, one of them a popular Niagara County fishing spot aiming for federal cleanup dollars.

Eighteenmile Creek in the Town of Newfane and the Buffalo River in the City of Buffalo both were named in a recently released draft review of the more than two dozen ecologically degraded zones known as “areas of concern.”

The latest draft of the report, issued earlier this year, does not assert a cause-and-effect relationship between contamination and illness. Instead, government data on toxic releases was amassed along with health indicators in the counties in which concern areas are located. The report was compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and some critics of the Bush administration believe the administration tried to suppress its release. Its primary recommendation calls for additional data to be collected.

Cleanup of Eighteenmile Creek would see a major boost if the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency grants a request for $420,000, said Victor F. DiGiacomo Jr., coordinator of the creek’s remedial action plan for the Niagara County Soil and Water Conservation District. Under the best-case scenario, the federal agency could decide on awarding the funding by the end of the month, DiGiacomo said.

Members of the area’s congressional delegation aren’t sitting still on the issue. Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport, said she was alarmed by potential connections between pollutants and the health of the surrounding communities. “It is imperative that we conduct more vigorous research and data collection so we can fully understand the effects of chemical exposure and move rapidly to safeguard public health,” Slaughter said in a statement.

Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, in February called for a congressional investigation into whether the report was suppressed.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce is continuing its investigation.

A 2007 draft of the report, in its review of 26 “areas of concern” in the United States, found high infant mortality rates and elevated incidents of breast, colon and lung cancer. The latest draft includes a revised and shortened conclusion section excluding details about incidents of disease from the previous version.

The International Joint Commission, the body charged with controlling binational waters between the United States and Canada, designated Eighteenmile Creek an “area of concern” in 1985.


The town council minutes for the May meeting are now available online at:;/content/Minutes/View/68

Items include:

* The Gasport elementary school's drainage issue
* Settlement of the workers comp lawsuit
* Accounting records

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Yesterday, this website experienced by far its greatest number of visitors ever, nearly everyone looking for information about Michelle McQueen. That means there are a lot of people who care about her and were impacted by her tragic death in a motorcycle accident over the weekend. As a service to those experiencing this loss, here is her obituary:

Michelle M. McQueen, age 24, of Ridge Road, Gasport, entered into rest on Monday, May 26, 2008. Born December 30, 1983 in Buffalo, she was the daughter of Darlene (Paonessa) McQueen and Larry J. McQueen. Michelle was a 2002 graduate of Newfane High School and a 2006 graduate of D’youville College receiving a bachelors degree in accounting. She and her fiancee Marc Morse were going to be married this September. They enjoyed riding snowmobiles and motorcycles. Michelle was a member of the Gasport Chemical Hose where she was the present treasure and worked as an EMT. She was also the Bingo chairmen. She worked as an auditor for NYS Tax and Finance in Buffalo.

She is survived by her loving fiancĂ©e, Marc Morse of Gasport. Dear daughter of Darlene McQueen (Brad Clack) of Lockport and Larry McQueen of Lockport; sister of Jackie McQueen (Paul Ulrich) of Lockport and Anissa (Tom) Timm of Louisville, Kentucky; aunt of Michael Timm; granddaughter of Joseph (Catherine) Paonessa of Youngstown and Jack McQueen of Gasport and the late Lillian McQueen; daughter-in-law of Dan and Jean Morse of Gasport; sister-in-law of Kevin Morse (Cara Burns) of Gasport and Mira Morse of Gasport; Marc’s grandparents, David Bedford of Lockport and the late Doris Bedford and Rose and Ralph Morse of Middleport; also survived by several aunts, uncles, cousins and many dear friends.

Friends may call at the Sherrie-Bream Funeral Home, 4521 Main Street, Gasport, NY on Thursday, May 29th, from 2-4 and 7-9 PM. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held Friday, May 30, 2008 at St. Josephs R.C. Church, 391 Market Street, Lockport, NY at 10:00 AM with the Reverend Joseph Rogliano officiating. Interment will be in St. Charles Borromeo R.C. Cemetery, Newfane, NY.

In lieu of flowers, memorials appreciated to Equistar Therapeutic Riding Center, 2199 Fuller Road, Burt, NY 14028.

Please sign guest register at


A visitor to this website submitted the following....

We are trying to get the word out to parents of the incoming Kindergarten (K) class regarding class size. As of May 21, 2008 there are 108 registered Kindergarten children for the 2008-09 school year. If the number of K classrooms remain at five, there will be 22 children in each class. Historically more register as September draws nearer, so we can expect greater than 22 to be in each class.

Two years ago RHES had 25-26 students in each K class. Most of their parents and teachers felt that these children received a less than ideal first year in school. Parents of the 2007-8 Kindergarten class had this same fight on their hands last year, at this time of the year. Their children were slated for four classes with 22 in each class. The parents banded together, approached the board of education and demanded another classroom be added. They were successful and the administration added a fifth class lowering the class ratio to 17:1. I am a parent of a current Kindergarten student and I can tell you first hand how nice it is for these students to receive more personal attention resulting from this lower ratio. My daughter has flourished in Kindergarten, thanks to the more personal instruction afforded her. In my opinion, ALL KINDERGARTEN CHILDREN SHOULD BE EXTENDED THIS OPPORTUNITY!

Once again the incoming Kindergarten class is up against the administration to keep class size under a 20:1 student-teacher ratio. Again, speaking first hand, the only way this will happen is if the parents come out and VOICE their opinion at the next board meeting - June 12th, 7pm at the RH high school auditorium. Also, a petition is being circulated and can be signed at the Middleport Free library on Vernon Street or at MJ Auto Care aka Durf's corner of Route 31 and Cottage in Gasport.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


The NYS Department of Education has released its list of high-performing schools and two parts of the Roy-Hart school system made it...the elementary school and the middle school. Here are portions of the Department of Ed's description of the achievement:


A total of 1,759 public schools, 19 charter schools, and 288 public school districts have been named “High Performing/Gap Closing” under the No Child Left Behind Act, Regents Chancellor Robert M. Bennett and State Education Commissioner Richard Mills announced today.

“We must focus special attention on schools that need to improve the performance of children who are frequently underserved,” Chancellor Bennett said. “Today, we are pleased to recognize so many schools and districts in New York that have shown real progress in meeting this challenge.”

“It is encouraging that half of New York’s eligible schools have shown the kind of progress needed for them to be recognized today. The Regents will continue to take aggressive action to ensure that every student in every school has a chance to succeed,” Commissioner Richard Mills said.

A list of recognized schools and districts is available at


TV Channel 2 reports on this tragic event that took the life of a young woman who volunteered for the Gasport fire department and was the organization's secretary....

Gasport Woman Killed in Motorcycle Crash

Niagara County Sheriff Deputies are investigating a fatal motorcycle crash that happened about 2:30pm on Memorial Day in the Town of Newfane. Investigators say Michelle McQueen, 24, of Gasport, lost control of her motorcycle and was hit by an on-coming van hauling a camper on Ridge Road near Hess Road. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Marc Morse, 24, also of Gasport, was taken to Lockport Memorial Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Investigators believe McQueen and Morse were riding alongside each other at the time of the incident.

Friends say the two were engaged and planning an autumn wedding.

The Niagara County Sheriff's Department continues to investigate.

The Buffalo News reports of the very same, but with this addition:

Michelle McQueen, 24, of Ridge Road, lost control of her eastbound motorcycle when she attempted to speak with her boyfriend, Marc Morse, who was behind her on another motorcycle, authorities said.

Monday, May 26, 2008


The Erie Canal's summer hours are now in effect through September 3rd. The lift bridges and locks will be navigable from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM Daily.


The Lockport US&J reports....

Man accidentally shoots himself in the footStaff Reports

A 71-year-old Gasport man is recovering after accidentally shooting himself in the foot Thursday afternoon. Charles Wilkinson told sheriff’s deputies he was cleaning his Colt .25 handgun at his Seaman Road home when he accidentally shot himself in the left foot.

Wilkinson reportedly said he was removing the magazine and racked the gun two or three times to clear the chamber. He then cleaned the gun and oiled it while sitting in his recliner, leaning back in the chair, the report said. When he finished cleaning and oiling the gun, he said he pulled the trigger back to make sure the gun would work properly, the report said. He told deputies a cartridge must have been stuck in the chamber, and the gun fired while it was pointing at his left foot. The cartridge went through his left foot, the report said.

Wilkinson drove himself to Inter-Community Memorial Hospital. Deputies responded to the hospital to interview him. After an investigation, it was determined the gunshot was accidental, the report said.

Friday, May 23, 2008


A reader passed along this message.....

In memory of Tyler Flagler, a 9 year old Roy Hart Elementary School Student who passed away last summer, a pavillion is being constructed at the Royalton Ravine Park. The pavillion is currently under construction, but more funds are still needed to complete the project.The Pavillion is being built by community donations, time and materials. A memorial plaque will be put up with Tyler's picture etched in granite. About $3000.00 in donations are still needed. Cash donations are greatly appreciated. Checks can be made out to Gasport Beautification Committee and sent to:

Carey Hill
8585 Slayton Settlement Road
Gasport, NY 14067

The shell of the Pavillion is up so stop by and take a look!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


The very popular Erie Canal Fishing Derby - headquartered in Gasport - is now accepting sponsorships for this year's event running July 8 to 20.

Your ad will go on all signs and posters and there are four levels of ads available: $75, $150, $300, $500.

If interested in helping out this great family-oriented event, call Steve Harrington at 772.7972.

For info about the derby visit


The Lockport US&J Reports....

Royalton-Hartland School District residents approved the $23.4 million budget with a 417-146 decision. Spending would see an increase of 1.21 percent and calls for an estimated 3.9 percent tax levy increase. The tax rate would go up anywhere from 81 cents to 96 cents per $1,000 of assessed land value, depending on where a resident lives.

Some of the biggest increases in the budget were utility costs, transportation fuel costs and in general support for auditing. Superintendent Paul Bona said he was pleased to see the support and confidence residents had in the school district’s efforts to minimize taxes and keep a strong educational program, although voter turnout was less than normal.

“It was lighter, but we are satisfied with the results and can only hope the people who didn’t get out to vote were supportive of the district,” he said.

Residents Jeffrey Waters and Keith Bond were elected to the Roy-Hart board with 409 and 387 votes. Incumbent Mary Smith was re-elected with 116 write-in votes. Smith decided not to run originally but changed her mind and began a write-in campaign.


Sunday, May 18, 2008


This website,, is maintained as a sort of community service to everyone who lives in Gasport, has lived in Gasport, or plans to visit our wonderful town. That being said, e-mail me your newsy items and I'll post them on this blog. I'm always looking for....

* General news
* Events
* New businesses
* Special achievements
* Photos of Gasport
* History
* Rumors
* And, pretty much anything "Gasport"

Send your submissions to me at


Here's something I pulled from Roy-Hart's website:

The class of 1979 has started planning for their thirty, yes that's right, 30 year class reunion. That means names, addresses, email addresses and telephone numbers are needed. If you are, or anyone you know is a member of the class of 1979, please contact Dottie (Keirn) Barr at with current information...Thank you


If you have a police scanner, punch in this frequency: 156.650

This will allow you to hear the marine channel used on the Erie Canal when boats need our lift bridge raised.


Today's Buffalo News did a great job analyzing Roy-Hart's vote slated for Tuesday. Here it is:


• Candidates (Elect 3 to three-year terms): Newcomers Keith A. Bond and Jeffrey Waters are running and incumbent Mary F. Smith has decided to wage a write-in campaign since she had decided not to run for re-election when petitions were due, but has since changed her mind.

• Total budget: $23,414,000, up 1.21 percent.

• Estimated property tax rate per $1,000 assessed value: $25.82 in Royalton; $21.65 in Hartland; $21.65 in the Town of Lockport; $22.79 in the Town of Alabama; $21.65 in Ridgeway; and $21.65 in Shelby — all up 3.89 percent.

• Total amount to be raised through property taxes: $8,817,789, up 3.9 percent. • Estimated taxes on a $100,000 home (market value): $2,582 in Royalton; $2,165 in Hartland, Lockport, Ridgeway and Shelby; and $2,279 in Alabama.

• Percentage of budget from property taxes: 37.66 percent.

• Percent of budget from state aid: 56.89 percent.

• Noteworthy: Despite a modest 2.46 percent increase in state aid, up $222,639, the district will be able to maintain its current academic and extracurricular programs, avoid layoffs and keep spending from rising above the 1.21 percent mark in its 2008-09 budget plan. Superintendent Paul J. Bona Jr. said he was disappointed that the state didn’t provide his rural agricultural community with a little more help, since most school district’s see at least a 3 percent or even higher increase in state aid, as all the other nine county districts did.

“Our aid was certainly not keeping pace with where we needed to be. We do more with less than anybody in the world,” he said.

He said Roy-Hart spends $6,751 per pupil, while similar districts spend more than $8,399 on each student. He said public school district’s statewide spend an average of $9,168 per student each year. The School Board was able to keep spending down because it is not replacing five teachers who are retiring in June, which will save the district about $450,000. The board is not filling those teaching slots because of the declining enrollment the district has experienced over the past several years. Bona said the district was fortunate this year in that the board was able to keep programs up without cutting back. “We’re not always going to have the benefit of being able to reduce staff through attrition,” Bona said. “That means if things continue on like this, we may either have to pass on more costs to local taxpayers or look at reductions in programs. These are the kind of things the district may have to face in future years.”

• Polls open: Noon to 9 p. m. in Royalton- Hartland High School gymnasium, 54 State St., Middleport.

When voters go to the polls, they will consider a $23.4 million budget that would increase spending by $290,683 over the current budget. Voters also will elect three candidates to serve three-years terms on the seven- member School Board:
•Keith A. Bond, 51, a stay-at-home dad.
•Jeffery Waters, 39, a sergeant with the Middleport Police Department.
•Mary F. Smith, 52, chief accountant for the Niagara County Treasurer’s Office.

Board members Susan Hughes and Margo Hall are not seeking re-election.



If you missed the comments section from the MRSA article below, here's an interesting comment left by one of our readers. Who else did not receive a notice?............

I just heard it through the grapevine. Your website. I have three children in the elementary school. 4th grade, 2nd grade and pre-k not one of my children came home with a notice for me. I also volunteer at the school and was there on Friday and was not told anything about it. No letter was sent out to elementary parents.


Here's a turkey that I got this morning on our spread in Gasport....

Saturday, May 17, 2008


Leadership Niagara is an organization that develops the community leadership and awareness of adults who live and work in Niagara County. Every year, 35 adults participate in the program. As a LN alumnus and political pundit, I am organizing this year's class trip to Albany. This week I am taking them there to meet with a variety of senators and assemblymen.

Is there any State issue you'd like me to discuss with the elected officials? If so, hit the comment button on this post or send an e-mail to


The Lockport US&J reports....

Eighth grader diagnosed with MRSA

Royalton-Hartland School District notified parents this week that a student was diagnosed with the antibiotic-resistant staph infection known as MRSA. Superintendent Paul Bona said a “standard” letter was sent home with students in kindergarten through eighth grade on Thursday alerting parents to the case. Also sent was a fact sheet about MRSA (pronounced “mer-sa”) provided by the state health department.

The student, an unnamed eighth-grader, is being treated and is fine, Bona said. The district was informed by the student’s physician at mid-week. Bona declined to say whether the student remains in school or is being treated at home.“From what I understand, everything is running (its course). We have not been made aware of any problems,” he said. “The physicians have notified us that ... everything is under control.”

MRSA, short for methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, is a bacterium that causes infections in different parts of the body. It’s tougher to treat than most strains of staph because it’s resistant to some commonly used antibiotics.

Alerting the community to the single known case is district protocol, according to Bona. All families with students in both the elementary and middle schools were notified because some teachers travel between them, he said.

MRSA spreads from an infected wound, according to Wanda Smiley, director of nursing and patient services at Niagara County Health Department. If the wound is covered and the bacteria doesn’t make direct contact with surfaces, there is little threat of it spreading to another’s open wound, she said. Bona said common surfaces including desks, door knobs and railings already are wiped down with disinfectant daily, as part of the district’s program to combat flu virus.

District parent Amy Cummings, who has children enrolled in middle and elementary schools, said the alert left her wanting more information.“The (health department fact sheet) ranges from saying some people harbor the bacteria for years without showing symptoms to saying the infection can cause death. I think we need to be informed of the severity of this child’s case, whether or not he’s still attending school, how concerned we really should be of this case being contagious,” Cummings said. “The letter we were given was pretty vague.”

Legally, it’s not necessary for the school to inform parents at all about a single diagnosed MRSA case, Smiley said, nor is it the school’s call whether a diagnosed student or staff member stays away during treatment. It’s a physician’s call — and in most cases the physician will recommend the wound stay covered and the patient simply stay out of the gym, the pool and the shower room, she said. MRSA is far more common than most people think, Smiley added, and in otherwise healthy people an infection is perfectly treatable.“Most of us carry a colonization of (staph) in our nostrils. It’s on our skin. ... We fend it off,” she said. “In some cases there are children who’ve been diagnosed and you never even know it.”

Notices go out in the school community because administrators don’t want parents hearing the feared acronym through the grapevine, then wondering why the school didn’t tell them, Smiley suggested. “It’s such a hot ‘n heavy word these days. When people hear it, they get upset,” she said. “I could say, ‘oh I have a staph infection in my big toe’ and you wouldn’t think twice about it. Say ‘MRSA’ and it’s a different story.”

Friday, May 16, 2008


The Lockport US&J reports....

Two men are indicted on federal drug charges

Two Royalton men are facing federal drug charges for allegedly growing marijuana in a home on Highland Drive. Stephen Verbocy, 52, and Jesse Baker, 27, were indicted Thursday on charges of conspiracy; possession with intent to distribute marijuana; manufacturing more than 100 marijuana plants; maintaining premises for the purposes of manufacturing, distributing or using a controlled substance; and possession of firearms.

U.S. Attorney Terrance P. Flynn announced Thursday that the defendants are charged with maintaining a facility at 7652 Highland Drive for the purposes of manufacturing and distributing marijuana. Investigators seized about 219 live marijuana plants, as well as quantities of marijuana, mushrooms, ecstasy and cocaine. Three firearms were also seized from the residence. The drug charges carry a maximum of 40 years in prison, a fine of $2 million, or both. The firearms charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison, a fine of $1 million, or both.

The investigation was handled by the Niagara County Sheriff’s Department and the Niagara County Drug Task Force. The investigation began in February, when deputies were called to the Highland Drive home after dispatch received a call from a woman who said she had possibly been drugged. The woman reportedly said she believed one of the men had given her psychedelic mushrooms. She told deputies she thought she heard her father’s voice coming from the basement and that the heating vents in the living room area were glowing, the report said. She was transported to Lockport Memorial Hospital for evaluation.

Members of the Niagara County Drug Task Force responded to the scene and obtained a search warrant for the residence. When they checked the basement, they found numerous marijuana plants and several long guns, the report said.


Thursday, May 15, 2008


The Zion Lutheran Church is having a yard sale 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Friday and Saturday, not at the church but at 4199 Hartland Rd (corner of Hartland Rd and Slayton Settlement Rd). Members of the church community donated all the goods for sale. ALL proceeds will go towards World Hunger.


The Lockport US&J reports...

Woman charged with lying about robbery

A Gasport woman has been charged with fabricating a robbery in order to cover up the fact that she spent bingo funds from the Hartland Volunteer Fire Co. Lee A. Smith, 46, 7542 Ridge Road, was charged Tuesday afternoon with third-degree falsely reporting an incident.

Officers responded to the Cornerstone Community Federal Credit Union on Stevens Street on Monday afternoon to investigate a report of a robbery. Smith reportedly told police she went to the bank to deposit $8,560 for the Hartland Volunteer Fire Co. The funds had been raised by bingo events at the fire hall. Smith is reportedly the bingo chairwoman for the fire hall and had been responsible for depositing the money.

Smith reportedly told police she arrived at the bank at about 3:30 p.m. and parked on Stevens Street instead of in the bank parking lot.She said she was carrying the blue bank deposit bag in her right hand as she got out of her car, while closing her car door with her left hand, the report said. Smith allegedly said at that moment, a man on a bicycle rode by her and grabbed the bag forcefully from her hand. She said he rode away west on Stevens Street, the report said. She described the man as in his 20s, with tan skin, wearing a dark baseball cap, the report said. Smith reportedly said she'd driven her car into the bank parking lot and gone inside the bank to call for help.

All available patrol units searched the area for the suspect. Detective Lt. John Yotter said he interviewed Smith, and after an interrogation she admitted the story was not true.“She admitted to me during interrogation that she made the whole thing up and she spent all the money,” Yotter said. She reportedly said she was afraid to tell the fire company that she’d spent the money. Smith was released on her own recognizance and pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Lockport City Court. She is due again in court May 28.



Auburn's newspaper reports on something that will affect how we burn brush in Gasport:

DEC wants to extend open burning ban

The ban on open burning will be extended statewide if a proposal submitted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is upheld. This means that no one can dispose of their trash by burning it in an open fire anywhere in the state. The state will conduct a series of public hearings on the proposal.

The proposed rule allows for exceptions: camp fires, prescribed burns, celebratory bonfires (where allowed), fire training exercises, specialized burning to protect crops from frostbite, and burning of agricultural wastes (not plastics). Cover crops, grapevines, and orchard trimmings are examples of agricultural wastes that would be exempt under the new proposal.

Lori O'Connell, DEC spokesperson, said that public comments would be reviewed by DEC staff in 45 days. That would include comments made at scheduled public hearings as well as letters and e-mails received at the DEC. “Based on the feedback we receive,” O'Connell said, “a revised proposal could be made, or the present proposal could become a statewide regulation. We won't really know all the concerns until after the hearings.”

Currently populations under 20,000 are not subject to any statewide prohibition that would prevent such burning. Under the proposed rule this burning would be banned. Those who dispose of household refuse by burning will find that some households will have to pay for a hauler to pick up refuse at a typical cost of about $80 per month. Some will dispose of it at landfills at a cost of about $104 to $312 per year, the DEC said. But it also said any increase in costs to society at large would be more than compensated for the savings of health related costs in affected areas: hospital costs, medications, lost work time, and quality of life.

Since 1972, the ban was in place against open burning of residential wastes in any city or village or in any town with a population of 20,000 or more. The state wants to reduce the impacts of pollutants such as dioxins, particulate matter, and carbon monoxide and to limit the risks of wildfires. The need to update is based on the changes in both the type of materials burned and the increase in scientific knowledge about the contaminants released into the air by the combustion of those materials.

The proposed revision may have greater impact in rural areas. Some rural residents do not properly dispose of household trash. Instead, they burn the trash in open fires, typically in a 55-gallon drum known as a “burn barrel.” Implementing the new law will simplify the enforcement of open burning by making most traditional debris fires illegal. Once believed harmless, open burning has been found to release more dangerous chemicals into the air than previously thought. A recent study by the Environmental Protection Agency, in conjunction with the DEC and state Department of Health, found that emissions of dioxins and furans (wood tars) from backyard burning alone were greater than all other sources combined for the years 2002 to 2004.

One resident in three uses a burn barrel to dispose of waste. Burning trash emits arsenic, carbon monoxide, benzene, styrene, formaldehyde, lead, hydrogen cyanide and other harmful chemicals. Trash containing plastics, polystyrene, pressure-treated and painted wood and bleached or colored papers can produce harmful chemicals when burned.

Open burning is the largest single cause of wildfires in New York. DEC's Forest Protection Division data show that debris burning accounted for about 40 percent of wildfires between 1986 and 2006 - more than twice the next most cited source. In 2006, debris burning triggered 98 wildfires in the state. The proposal has won backing from environmental and health groups and the Firemen's Association of the State of New York.

Hearings will be held on the proposed rule change at: Genesee Community College, College Drive, Conable Technology Building, Room T102, Batavia, July 2, 5 to 8 p.m.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008


The first-ever Junior Firefighter Safety Day, will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m this Sunday, May 18 . The event will include a car wash, a bake sale, a Chinese auction and other activities to raise money for a planned scholarship fund for the junior firefighters. The Niagara County Sheriff’s Department will be on hand, along with representatives from neighboring fire departments. Parents can sign up for the sheriff’s department’s child ID program and have their child car seats inspected. There will be a burn demonstration by Marty Phelps from 2 to 3 p.m. If Mercy Flight is available, the helicopter will be on hand, as well.


From the Lockport US&J....

ROYALTON: Budget, sewer problems hashed out at Town Board meeting

Long-festering sewer problems and bookkeeping blunders came to a head at Monday’s Town Board meeting.

The town that doesn’t know how much money it has, settled a suit with Niagara County for worker’s compensation two weeks ago and must take out a loan to pay $210,000. Add to that, there’s a 12-year old pipe problem that needs to be resolved for the Royalton-Hartland School District and the Village of Gasport. Paul Bona, the Roy-Hart superintendent, brought the sewer line issue before the board. The board said it could do the job for $65,000. Bona said that he talked to three contractors who could lay the 400 feet of pipe for $35,000.

Several years ago, a 9-inch pipe was hooked up with the required 12-inch pipe. That causes standing water at the Gasport School and flooding in the Emerson and West Avenue neighborhood. “At Emerson, they have a 9-inch pipe feeding the 12-inch pipe on West Avenue,” Bona explained. “That’s been a cause concern for the hamlet for over a decade who have had flooding.”

There is a tremendous runoff from Route 31 to the canal where there is another 12-inch pipe, he said.“It’s just going to put more water on Emerson for them to deal with,” Bona said. “They’re going to have some very unhappy taxpayers. There’s going to be additional water, because it won’t be standing on school property any longer.”

During the steamy debate, Highway Superintendent Terry Nieman felt he was insulted by Bona, and Bona felt he was insulted by Town Attorney Thomas Brandt. The town told the school to go with the low bid, but the town has no money to finish the job. “We don’t have the money in the budget for the project,” Councilman James Budde said. “There have been no long-term plans or short-term plans. We’re still trying to figure out how much money we have.”

Nieman noted that he had a good, long-time relationship with Mike Fisher, director of operations and facilities for Roy-Hart.“All of a sudden, we’re getting a different version that we’re trying to rip the school district off,” he said in criticism of Bona. “I take offense to that. I bend over backwards to do whatever I can to work with you and Mike Fisher.”

The town said the work might take 15 days because of possible rock and electrical wires. Bono said contractor told him it would five days. Bona insisted that Supervisor Richard Lang told him last week that the cost were a firm $65,000, and there was no more negotiations. Lang said he was sorry if he was misunderstood. Deputy Supervisor Jennifer Bieber said, “A 12-year old project should have been completed 11 years ago, however, we need to do it. I’m committed to the project.”

In other business, it was resolved that the civil action by Niagara County against the town regarding workmen’s compensation be settled. The supervisor was authorized to deliver $210,000 to Niagara County. The town was authorized to borrow the money. The suit goes back to 2001. The town inherited the $210,000 workers compensation claim that goes back to 2001.

The board hired Berry & Berry to do its books and, according to Lang, the accountants “were very disheartened by the state of the 2007 books ... Jack Berry said that the information contained in the general ledgers were for the most part bogus entries and did not correspond with the bank statements.”


Tuesday, May 13, 2008


The town of Royalton has three council meetings in April, the minutes of which are now available online.

April 4th's special meeting focused on designating a new accounting firm. The minutes are here:;/content/Minutes/View/67

April 14th's regularly scheduled meeting was chock full of items. The minutes are here:;/content/Minutes/View/65

April 22nd's special meeting focused on prevailing wages in regards to lawn mowing:;/content/Minutes/View/66

Regarding the issue of prevailing wages, would you believe it's $44/hour for total cost of labor? No wonder taxes are so high in NYS!

Monday, May 12, 2008


From the 12 August 2005 New York Outdoor News

By Bob Confer

More often than not, the lack of accessibility to fishable water is cited as the key reason why many people don’t fish on a regular basis. But, there exists a body of water in New York State which can readily smash this misconception. It traverses the state for some 350 miles, is connected to over 170 more miles of networked waterways, supports hundreds of miles of adjoining trails, and is within 25 miles of 80% of the upstate population. This accessible, marvelous water way is none other than the Erie Canal.

The most famed portion of the 524-mile New York State Canal System, the Erie Canal was opened in 1825, serving as that century’s key trade route, opening up the West to settlement and economic development. It sped the flow of resources from the Midwest to the Atlantic and within 15 years of its opening made New York City the busiest port in the America’s, moving more goods than Boston, Baltimore and New Orleans combined.

With its economic boom long since gone thanks to rail, roads, and air, the Canal has made a comfortable transformation to a recreational destination. Numerous towns dot the waterway, many of which tout the Canal’s uniqueness and their own historical quaintness. Boats of all types and sizes frequent the Canal. Hikers, bikers, and joggers have made the adjoining trail system a very popular stop. The Canal is now managed by the New York State Thruway Authority, an organization that has made a concerted effort to market the waterway both nationally and internationally.

Despite the Canal’s recreational uses being well-known and well-advertised, one of the greatest recreational pursuits of all-time – fishing – has become an afterthought. The Canal is perceived by many anglers to be a dirty waterway, devoid of all but rough fish. It is also looked upon as a poor angling choice due to its artificial and uniform channel-like appearance. Adding further to this stigma is the fact the Canal is drawn down or dewatered every winter, which tends to make one believe a healthy fishery could not be sustained.

Such stereotypes are unfounded. Michael Wilkinson, Senior Aquatic Biologist for the Department of Environmental Conservation says, "although the Canal does not appear "overly" fishy in some sections it does provide fishing opportunities…smallmouth bass, rock bass, and sheepshead are quite common." You will also find a smattering of largemouth bass, walleye, northern pike and crappies throughout the Canal. Furthermore, being that it is book-ended by the Upper Niagara River and the Hudson River, and fed by numerous waters in between, the Canal has become home to any number of fish that frequent those waters. So, the occasional hook-up with trout, salmon, or even muskellunge is not out of the question.

More than just quantity, the Canal produces quality as well. For proof, one need look no further than the leader board in 2004’s Erie Canal Derby, an family-style event that has been going on since 1991. Last year, anglers in Niagara and Orleans county caught a 4 pound smallmouth bass, a 5 pound pike, and an 8 pound walleye; all decent fish no matter the water!

Not only do you have an endless supply of fish to chase, you have a nearly endless means by which to do so. Totally unlike the situation with most bodies of water within our borders, the land-based angler has an incredible amount of access. The entire canal system supports over 240 miles of trails, including the continuous 100-mile long Heritage Trail that runs through Western New York. Entrance to these trails can be had at any number of bridges in the 200 villages, hamlets and cities that border the Canal. A good portion of the shoreline along these trails is tree-free, affording the chance to cast to your heart’s content. Such ease of accessibility coupled with a rather refined environment – many of the trails are of well-maintained soft gravel – makes a trip to the Canal a great place to get youngsters into fishing. This is further proved by the founding tenets of the aforementioned Erie Canal Fishing Derby. When asked about this increasingly popular derby, founder Steve Harrington said, "Just about anywhere you go there is plenty of accessibility to fish the Canal because of its banks. Whether young or old, disabled or handicapped, you can fish and have fun." He added that the Canal’s accessibility and the derby "brings families together, getting them to do something together for enjoyment".

Much more than just a shoreline fishing destination, boating can be another peaceful means by which to fish the Erie Canal. It is navigable May through October and there are over 80 public and private marinas throughout the state. A pass is required by all motorized boats and there are certain periods when the Canal is open for business, giving larger boats the chance to navigate through the locks and under lift bridges. So, before hitting the water make sure to do some research via the Thruway Authority’s website,

Getting to the fish is easy. Catching the fish is just as easy. Much of the canal’s fairly uniform shoreline is supported by large rocks that were deposited by those who toiled in the Canal’s construction. These rocks provide shelter to very healthy populations of crayfish and minnows that ultimately end up supporting the upper end of the aquatic food chain. Therefore, to catch the Canal’s gamefish bounty it is imperative that you offer an attractive presentation in such rocks, and there are no better lures for this task than soft plastic twisters and crankbaits.

The old stand-by of many a tacklebox - 3" white twisters - work wonders in the Canal. They can be slowly bounced among the rocks, getting into the cracks and crevices where the crayfish hide and the bass and walleyes hunt. Hang-ups will be numerous, as is always the case when jigging in rocks, but break–offs will be minimal. By walking upstream or downstream it is very easy to dislodge your jig.

Small, crayfish-hued crankbaits work equally as well in the Canal. The best method is to walk the shoreline and cast downstream - parallel to the shore - retrieving the crankbait rapidly and bouncing it off the rocks in five feet of water or less. This method will produce smallmouths all day and walleyes at dawn and dusk.

Other methods work quite well, too. In the dog days of Summer, small surface lures cast in the shallows prove quite effective on bass in the evening. Live worms and minnows jigged amongst the rocks or besides structural walls under bridges, docks and guard gates has produced many a decent fish. Spinners cast along the shoreline are great at catching bass, but, beware, they are more apt to snag as compared to the more buoyant crankbaits.

The Erie Canal is truly an asset to New York State. It helped make us what we are, one of the most powerful economies in the world. It offers unlimited recreational potential and historical value. And, it is home to a very diverse, very exciting, and very accessible fishery, one that will please everyone, from the youngest of anglers to the most-experienced of outdoorsmen. So, get out and enjoy what the Erie Canal has to offer. You won’t be disappointed.


We here in WNY should be getting a respite in gas taxes....but we won't. The Assembly won't let us. I explain why in this week's column for the Greater Niagara Newspapers:

By Bob Confer

Last week the New York Senate voted for a holiday on the state’s gas tax, calling for suspension of the government markup during the summer months (Memorial Day through Labor Day). Sure, it’s most definitely an election year tactic by the Republican Senate, a sort of sales gimmick for incumbency, but nonetheless it is still a welcomed and much-needed gesture.

The Democrat-led Assembly, on the other hand, doesn’t see any value in neutralizing the tax.

At first glance, one might see this as petty party politics. It’s not. This contrast in opinion is founded in the rift that separates Upstate New York from the NYC metro region. The Assembly’s 150-person membership is dominated by the voices of downstate officials whose control the Assembly both in numbers and in leadership (Speaker Shelly Silver is from Manhattan). It’s this urban-centric mindset that has allowed the Assembly to dictate what happens in the State in a manner that is routinely beneficial to the downstate region and detrimental to we here in Upstate. The denial of the gas tax holiday exemplifies this situation. It shows in all its glory the self-centeredness so common to the Democratic Assembly.

Upstate folk understand what it means to be a New Yorker (as in the Big Apple). We can’t help but be because NYC arrogantly looks at itself as the place to be and it does a good job in spreading that boast. Its mystique and way of life have been force fed to us through the years in news and entertainment media. They, on the other hand, choose not to be so knowledgeable about what happens beyond the Catskills, having nothing but complete indifference towards the way of life in the rest of the State.

It’s from this that they see no need in cutting the price at the pump, even if temporarily. The residents of the metro area do most of their travel via public transportation like subways or buses because the structure of the City and potential for congestion (and lost time) makes it the most logical thing to do. Many of them don’t own cars and, if they do, it’s rarely put to use and only for short distances. So, gas prices have almost no impact on the constituents of the downstate politicians.

They look at this as the norm and choose not to be empathetic to Upstate needs, feigning ignorance to the very different ways of transportation here. With population bases spread out, no singularly-dominating City on the landscape, temperate job prospects, and minimally-convenient public transportation, workers here have no choice but to commute by car. The average WNY worker drives 23 minutes to the job and, according to federal statistics, over the course of the year he/she will see no more than 10 total hours in delays, meaning that we all travel great distances (I drive 25,000 miles per year and know many who do the same) and consume plenty of gasoline.

To us mobile New Yorkers, any savings we can get at the pump are vital to our financial well-being. The Senate’s bill would spare consumers about 34 cents per gallon. Over the course of tax holiday - when the standard commute mileage is supplemented with numerous summer pursuits – upstate families can save anywhere from $160 to $320 depending on their driving habits. Those are significant savings, especially now, when not only are gas prices unreasonably high but so are those for things we’ve always taken for granted as being affordable (basic life necessities like groceries).

Those savings brought on by the tax holiday don’t have the same fiscal importance to the NYC crowd. To them it’s out of sight and out of mind. That’s why the bill will never make it through the Assembly….it’s a non-issue to them personally and empathetically. It’s a perfect snapshot of how political power is doled out in Albany: As usual, the downstate region wins and we lose because "we don’t matter".

They are allowed to thrive while many WNY families actually struggle to survive.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


In celebreation of National Nursing Home Week, Absolut Care of Gasport is having an open house from 9:00 to 5:00 this Wednesday. The public is invited to tour the facility. Refreshments will be served.

Friday, May 9, 2008


In the article shown below the school district says it spends $6,751 per student.


The real value is $14,961.

You can see numbers for all districts at:


From the Lockport Union Sun and Journal...

ROY-HART: District shows off budget to the public

Royalton-Hartland residents were able to see the district’s proposed budget for the 2008-09 school year Thursday at the school board meeting. The budget was presented by Kelly Griffith, the district’s business administrator. The $23.4 million budget is an increase of 1.21 percent in spending from the current school year’s budget. It calls for an estimated 3.9 percent tax levy increase, which could raise the tax rate anywhere from 81 cents to 96 cents per $1,000 of assessed land value, depending on where a resident lives. Six different towns comprise the Roy-Hart district, and until assessments are figured out, a final tax rate increase won’t be finalized. Griffith said some of the biggest increases in the budget were utility costs, transportation fuel costs and in general support for auditing.“We have to pay for a claims auditor, an internal auditor and an external auditor,” she said.

New York state requires all districts have to show a proposed budget in a three-component format. Each budget is broken down into administrative, capital and program components. The largest part of the budget is the programs, which are things such as instruction, pupil services and summer school costs. Programs take up about $17 million of the proposed budget.Griffith also compared Roy-Hart’s spending per student to other districts.

According to a state school fiscal accountability report from 2005-06, Roy-Hart spent about $6,751 per student. On average, similar districts spent about $8,399 per student and the New York state average for public school spending per student is about $9,168. She added the budget was kept to as small an increase as possible.“It’s a minimal increase,” she said. “We’re basically keeping everything the same.”

Roy-Hart will receive $13,320,966 in state aid, a 7.67 percent increase from the current school year. The tax levy, the amount of money from property taxes needed to fund the district, will account for $8,817,789 of revenue. Incoming school board member Keith Bond attended the meeting and said he liked what he saw in regards to the budget.“It looks good,” he said. “They were able to keep the tax down, while everything else is going up.”Bond added he looked forward to getting started as a member and with the proposed budget in place.

School board throughout the state will hold elections and budget votes on May 20. Roy-Hart residents will be voting from noon to 9 p.m. in the high school gymnasium, 54 State St., Middleport. Also, the board elected to cancel its May 22 meeting, but instead meet at 8 p.m. May 20 before voting closes. The next board meeting will be June 12.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


From the US&J...

Country club reports third recent larceny

The Niagara-Orleans Country Club on Telegraph Road has reportedly been hit by thieves for the third time in two weeks. Deputies responded to the club Wednesday morning for an alarm activation and found a broken window. An employee responded to the scene and discovered six bottles of alcohol, worth $120, had been taken.

On April 29, an employee reported hearing alarm go off in the dining room/bar area about 11:07 p.m. Deputies found someone had apparently thrown a rock through a window on the north side of the business.About 10 bottles of liquor, worth $130, were missing from inside the business, the report said.A golf cart worth about $3,000 was also reported stolen.

Three other golf carts were reported stolen April 28.


Donations are being accepted to fund the massive and popular July 4 festivities that Gasport has become known for. Checks can be made payable to "Royalton 4th of July Committee." Send them to:

Deb Genet
8511 East Ave,
Gasport, NY 14067


The US&J reports on how the legacy of Gasport's most famous horse lives on...

ROYALTON: Super stallion still a sire of champions

Abdullah lives.

The great white horse that gave the United States gold and silver medals at the 1984 Olympics and won the 1985 World Championship is still leaving his mark in town and around the world. Sue and Terry Williams bought the Trakehner stallion as a 3-year-old in Canada. The stallion was put down in 2000, at the age of 29. That’s like living to 100.

Sue estimates that the world champion has about 500 offspring around the world. “He has had horses competing in the Olympics, the World Cup and World Championship. None have done as well as he, but no horse has ever done as well.”Abdullah was named one of the top 50 horses of the century in “Chronicle of the Horse.” He helped carry rider Conrad Homfeld into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame.

Semen for sale

There are still hundreds of progeny to come. Williamsburg Farm sells the frozen semen all over the world, although Italy sold its last straws just this week. World championship horses are owned by syndicates. Sue and Terry Williams of Chestnut Ridge Road, private owners of Abdullah, invested all off their savings when the bought the big white stallion from Gerhard Schickedanz in Unionville, Ontario, in 1973.“What I paid for it was nothing near what’s he’s worth,” Sue said. “A horse trader wouldn’t tell you what he paid. We spent all of our money on him. I was looking for a competition horse that had a lot of ability. I didn’t want just a pleasure horse. I wanted a horse that I could seriously compete on.”

Bought 1826 farm

Sue and Terry, graduates of Cornell University, taught science at the Park School of Buffalo. They bought the abandoned Williamsburg Farm, which was built in 1826 and which once served as the Royalton Town Hall. The couple put stalls in the cattle barn before they fixed up the home. Sue and Terry commuted from Buffalo twice a day, before and after school, to take care of their seven horses. Sue was a well-qualified rider, winning dressage championships around the Northeast. Terry, whose father had horses on a farm south of Rochester, was the trainer.“He was the most wonderful horseman that ever existed,” Sue said of her husband. “He had a very special gift for the stallions. He understood how to handle them. They are big and they are strong and they are always testing you, and you have to know when to give and when to take. If you try to outmuscle them, you can’t do that. You have to get along with them.”

Terry died in December 2007 at 69 of colon cancer.

Tall, white and magnificentAbdullah was agreeable, tall (17 hands) and handsome. “He just looked magnificent. He was a beautiful animal. He was tall. We wanted to make it an investment rather than just a cash outlay. His value in his heyday was in the millions. We didn’t pay that much for him.” Abdullah was dark when a foal and turned gray as he matured. By the time was 14 and in the Olympics, the stallion was white.“It is a good color,” Homfeld said. “It’s a striking color.”

A very big heart

Nancy DiVita, who helps care for the 20 horses at the Chestnut Ridge Equestrian Center, did not get to ride Abdullah until he retired. “He had a very big heart,” the Gasport resident said. “Whatever he was asked to do, he tried. He was a willing horse who did what was expected of him.”

The breeders, who brought their horses from Lithuania in the 1960s, never regretted the sale, according to Sue. Schickedanz took great pride in Abdullah’s success and acknowledged the Trakehner stallion may have been gelded if it did not make a home at the Williamsburg Farm. Abdullah succeeded in Eventing and Dressage, but the stallion’s fame came as a jumping horse, and Sue Williams was not ready to take that leap. Career change at 10“I got too old for eventing,” said Sue who became a home economics teacher at Emmet Belknap School. “I was no longer as brave as I had been. I had never ridden horses over big fences. I needed to find a different career.”Abdullah and Sue were a team until he was 10. Abdullah won in the dressage arena and in eventing before becoming a world-class show jumper.“He would anything you asked him to do. He was a winner for me. I wasn’t brave enough as the fences got bigger.” The courses include 5-foot-6 high fences.

Abdullah was bred to jump; Debbie Shaffner of Lockport got the ride. “She was the best in the area, the best jumper rider,” Sue said. “She knew immediately he was a horse with great talent.”Shaffner competed with Abdullah for three years — 1981-83. “He took her where she had never been, Grand Prix jumping classes, World Cup Finals in Rome. It was an amazing ride,” Sue said.

The cost of transporting a horse to Europe is high, but Abdullah was so good, and he could pay his expenses and a little bit.

Let Conrad ride

While not on road trips, Abdullah was breeding at home. At the time, it was unusual for a stallion to do both. The Williamses got to know all the players on the circuit, and Conrad Homfeld of Virginia was one of the best. He was tall, thin and athletic. They were well aware the Olympics would be held in 1984 and wanted a more experienced rider. It takes time to develop a relationship with a horse.“In the long run (we thought we’d have) more success if we let Conrad ride it,” Sue said. “He is a magnificent rider. He’d been there, done that. It was magic when he got on the horse. He knew exactly what his job was and a horse that had enough mileage. The two of them put it all together.”

Training was in Florida, and the Olympic Trials were at Lake Placid. Abdullah was selected as one of the five finalists, but only four would compete in Los Angeles. Olympic tension“I can’t tell you what we went through. It was crazy. We were just beside ourselves,” Sue recalled. “It was phenomenal. Abdullah knew everything that was going on.”

But because world-class horses are traditionally owned by syndicates, owners were not allowed in the stabling area. Because owner Terry Williams was the trainer, too, he was allowed to be with Abdullah as the groom.

European teams dominate the equestrian events, but Abdullah and company gave the U.S. its first gold medal. Abdullah took an individual silver medal.“ I have no idea how I survived that,” Sue said. “I could tell you every fence. I could tell you everything about the entire round. When they play the Star Spangled banner and the flag goes up, there is nothing like it in the world.”

Terry, Conrad and Abdullah had their picture taken with Prince Phillip.

Beyond the Olympics

The 1985 World Cup was held in Berlin, and Abdullah helped the U.S. secure the first gold medal in the team competition. The four best riders rode the four best horses for individual honors. Abdullah was the leading horse, and Conrad came in second as rider. In 1986, Abdullah won the World Championships in Aachen, Germany. Abdullah retired when he was 18 in 1988, but Sue was still able to ride the stallion until the day before he died.

Conrad’s career

“He was very good to my career and I enjoyed riding him,” Homfeld said Wednesday. “It’s all a happy memory, a high point in my riding career. Overall, it was wonderful.” Homfeld lives in Florida and is retired. He has returned to the Olympics as a spectator and has a little recreational involvement with horses.

The Royalton Historical Society placed an historical marker in front of the Williamsburg Farm.

Semen preserved at lab

There is a lab in the Sue’s home where frozen straws of Abdullah’s semen are preserved. Paul Loomis does this commercially out of Hilltop Farm in Colora, Md.Straws are $500 and most times, insemination takes three straws. There are about 300 straws left in the U.S. and more in Denmark and Germany. Sue Williams noted that offspring of Abdullah that were bred in Europe have wound up in Florida. His son Abracadabra was Jumper of The Year in 1999. In the U.S., Abdullah has produced IHF and IJF Champions as well as numerous AHSA Horses of The Year. The success of the Williamsburg Farm was not just luck. “We were experienced horse people and we were looking for a quality animal,” Sue It’s more than winning the lottery. We did a lot of things right. We made a lot of good decisions.”



If you want to treat your mother to a great meal on Sunday, Terry's Corners Fire Company is having it's 44th annual chicken BBQ on Mothers' Day from 11:00 to "sold out". Cost is $8/adult, $4/5 -12 year olds, $0/under 5. The dinner is sit-down or take-out at the fire hall on Route 77.

Monday, May 5, 2008


The Catholic Church will no longer be represented in Gasport in about a month, due to dubious decision-making by the Buffalo Diocese. I address it in this week's newspaper column....

By Bob Confer

When I tell people I live in Gasport many of them respond with a resounding, “that’s God’s Country!”

That, it is. It’s a beautiful area and a great place to live. But, come June, it will be a little less godly. St. Mary’s Church, the sole Roman Catholic Church in our hamlet, is one of almost 90 Catholic churches that will be – or have been – closed or merged by the Buffalo Diocese.

I don’t claim to be the most religious man in the world. Moreover, I’m not Catholic, but my wife is. So, as someone who is an outsider with an insider’s perspective and one possessed of an understanding of what makes communities tick, I see nothing but harm being brought about by these closings. There are two bonds that can consistently bring together dissimilar peoples of an area. They are the senses of religious belonging and civic belonging. The closing of a church can have wide-ranging consequences on the community at large by actually destroying the aforementioned senses.

This is especially true when it occurs in rural areas. The problem is exacerbated in such locales because entities such as St. Mary’s represent the only venue for a specific denomination. Take that away and the people have nothing. Sure, most will make due by traveling to Lockport or Medina for their worship, but many will lose their religion (and weekly friends) by being unable to make what is for some – especially seniors - a lengthy trip. Lost forever will be the religious and civic bonds that were forged across generations and made that church and its followers unique. The sense of community once vital and beloved by those followers has essentially been squashed. Gasport will forever be removed from Catholicism and vice versa. Because of that, Gasport as a whole will suffer because the tie that binds many of its residents has become unbound.

You can see the agony in the local church community which truly has become a family torn apart by actions out of their control. Gasport’s Father Badding seems deeply affected by it and at a loss of words when he speaks of it in his sermons. The long-term worshippers are visibly shaken by the loss of a church they have been attending for decades, one that their parents did before them. This heartbreaking situation in Gasport mirrors what is happening all across Western New York, be it in smaller towns and villages or in the myriad unique communities that can found nestled within the larger urban areas.

Why would the Catholic Church inflict so much damage on so many people? The Diocese claims it’s due to a decrease in attendance (customers) in churches across the area. It needs to streamline its operations (cost costs) and make the most of its message (increase profits).

That being said, the Church could be considered guilty of participating in the modern day corporate mindset. It is, after all, the largest corporation in the world. It far rivals Wal-Mart in terms of customers (1.31 served and counting!). Its revenues are without peer: The United States Catholic Church alone contributes about $110 billion per year to the Church and World Youth Day itself rakes in over $150 million. Its treasury total is typically kept hush-hush but it is known to exceed the treasury values of most all nations.

This approach to spreading its word and managing its monies makes it obvious that the Church has taken on the downsizing ways of many of today’s biggest moneymakers. It has deemphasized the value of its people and its Almighty God, instead emphasizing the value of the Almighty Dollar. It was once in the business of enlightenment, but now just appears to be in the business of business.

If the Catholic Church’s management still hung to its core values of spreading the word and not focusing on returns, the act of closures would never have crossed their minds. Most churches in the region, regardless of denomination, have declining membership. Some rural Protestant churches struggle to get 40 attendees a week. Yet, somehow, they stay open and their higher ups want them to stay open.

Such churches understand that they have an important service to deliver to the people, that God’s Word comes first. Money, to them, is an afterthought and nowhere near their driving force. It’s too bad that the Buffalo Diocese and the Vatican’s leadership don’t see things that same way. Corporate greed has ruined them and has hurt Catholics and non-Catholics everywhere.