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UTILITY BOARD CAN APPLY FOR RATE INCREASE

JAMESTOWN -- The city's Board of Public Utilities can apply for an electric rate hike, but it will likely be some time before its case will be heard.

Utilities board General Manager Wally W. Haase and Deputy General Manager Michael Darroch met with the state Public Service Commission a week ago after it was indicated the board was seeking a rate increase of between 10 and 20 percent.

In a prepared statement, officials said the increase was needed due to the costs of deregulation and increased fuel costs. Over the past year, electric costs in the service area have increased about 30 percent because of fuel cost adjustments.

Late this week, Haase indicated the utilities board will file an application with the PSC in two weeks. He added it will likely be five to six months before the agency hears from the PSC.

Utilities board Communications Coordinator Sue Jones also said even if the PSC agrees to hear the case, it would involve a 12 to 15 month process.

Lack of water hampers firefighters

PANAMA -- A dog awakened the occupant of a two-story house in the Town of Harmony before flames destroyed the residence, fire officials said.

The cause is under investigation.

Panama Fire Chief Al Hamm said by the time firefighters arrived at the house at 6417 Button Valley Road just before midnight Friday, the front part of the house was engulfed in flames.

"We had it pretty well knocked down with our initial water (attack)," said Hamm, "but a delay in getting additional water to the scene allowed the blaze to flare up. It really took hold of it, and basically, it's a total loss."

"In a rural area, it just takes a little time, you know, 10 minutes is all it takes if you're out of water, and the winds were fanning it (the fire), too."

Two arrested in Jamestown drug raid

JAMESTOWN -- Two West Eighth Street men are in Chautauqua County Jail facing drug charges after a raid on a suspected crack house late Thursday night.

The suspects were identified as Reinaldo Fontanez and Aixa Martinez, both 31. Both face criminal sale and possession charges, police said.

Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force agents obtained a search warrant on a complaint of suspected heroin sales at the West Eighth Street address, authorities said.

Task force members, along with the Jamestown Police Department's SWAT Team, said they raided the upstairs apartment shortly before 11 p.m. Thursday, when Fontanez and Martinez were arrested. Police said they found 12 packages of heroin, 23 hypodermic needles, a small amount of crack, cash and other drug paraphernalia.

Dunkirk Dave foresees an early spring

In the midst of what seems like an unusually long winter -- and with snow returning Friday morning -- Western New Yorkers got what could be a bit of good news. Chautauqua County's traditional weather forecaster, groundhog "Dunkirk Dave," did not see his shadow.

Dave's owner, Bob Will, reported, "Dunkirk Dave didn't see his shadow, so that means we are looking at early spring weather."

Will has full confidence in Dave's prognosticating skills. "Just remember" he said, "in the past 30 years he has been making the call, he has a 90 percent accuracy record."

But don't break out the sunscreen too soon. Will emphasized that by early-spring weather, "I don't mean today or tomorrow."

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