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Gov. George E. Pataki has announced that 95 Western New York communities and agencies have been awarded nearly $800,000 in federal disaster assistance to help cover cleanup costs associated with November's heavy snowfall.

Edward F. Jacoby Jr., director of the state Emergency Management Office, said that more applications were being processed and that, as they are completed and approved, additional payments would be made.

The NFTA received $106,184. Erie County communities and agencies that received substantial assistance included West Seneca ($42,572), the Town of Lancaster ($29,365), Clarence Central School District ($25,334) and Erie Community College ($10,065).

Among those receiving money in Chautauqua County are the Chautauqua County Airport ($10,454), Carroll ($10,712), Fredonia ($9,602) and Ellicott ($9,473).

Among those receiving money in Cattaraugus County are Ashford ($13,037), the Town of Allegany ($12,094), the Town of Ellicottville ($12,460), the Town of Franklinville ($12,530) and Hinsdale ($12,220).

Legionnaires to welcome commander

CELORON -- American Legion officials here and in Lakewood are preparing for a visit from the highest-ranking member of the state organization.

Organizer Richard Kogut of the Herman Kent Post No. 777 said Wednesday that New York Department Commander Richard C. O'Keefe will be welcomed at a noon luncheon at the Jackson Avenue location. O'Keefe will be the guest of honor at a dinner at the Lakewood Legion Post 1286 at 7 p.m.

"We expect legionnaires from (the) eight different counties which are part of the Eighth District," Kogut said. "It's his visitation to further membership to veterans (organizations) in the area."

The dinner at the Lakewood American Legion Post on Chautauqua Avenue begins with a cocktail hour at 6 p.m.

Family teams up to win treasure hunt

MAYVILLE -- Tracking down the medallion in this year's Ice Castle Extravaganza Treasure Hunt was a family affair.

Sinclairville's Patty France will receive the $500 savings bond. She and her family pored over the daily clues and found the six-inch disc Tuesday at a boat launch on Cassadaga Lake.

"Everybody in the family participated. We just kept reading the clues, and my husband put it (all) together. He's from the area," she said. "He knows all the roads, and once we figured it was in Cassadaga, we just started going to all the public places, and there it was at the boat launch."

France said the savings bond will be put toward her granddaughter's education.

The annual Ice Castle Extravaganza will be held Feb. 16 to 18.

Easing of ban on cigarette sales sought

LITTLE VALLEY -- Cattaraugus County legislators Wednesday advanced a resolution calling on the state to reconsider its position on banning cigarette sales over the Internet from Indian reservations.

The resolution, sponsored by James J. Snyder, R-Olean, and Carmen Vecchiarella, D-Salamanca, was advanced with approval by the Human Services Committee, allowing it to be considered Feb. 14 by the full Legislature.

The legislators said the state law will have a "serious negative impact" on the Seneca Nation of Indians, who sell cigarettes tax-free via the Internet.

The law was approved last year and signed by Gov. George E. Pataki, but a court order has enforcement on hold for several more weeks.

Weather prompts warning to avoid ice

A change in the weather has prompted the Erie County Sheriff's Department to issue a warning to stay off the ice of Lake Erie and inland bodies of water.

The warning applies to winter sports enthusiasts, particularly ice fishermen and snowmobilers. The milder weather, combined with shifting ice patterns, can create dangerous, unsafe conditions with little or no warning, Sheriff Patrick Gallivan said Wednesday.

Temperatures today are expected to rise into the low 40s, with scattered showers. Friday's weather will be even milder, according to the National Weather Service in Buffalo, with high temperatures in the mid-50s accompanied by wind and rain.

Meanwhile, the Sheriff's Department continues its daily "Sundowner Patrol" of the Lake Erie shoreline. The helicopter patrols started in mid-January, and are intended to ensure that ice fishermen get off the ice safely by nightfall.

Ellicottville hikes nonresident tuition

ELLICOTTVILLE -- Tuition for nonresident students in Ellicottville Central School District is on the rise as the result of a unanimous Board of Education decision Tuesday night.

Beginning with the 2001-02 school year, the new $250 rate will more than double the annual $105 fee now paid by parents of 131 members of the 720-member student body. Tuition will rise again to $300 in the second year and top off at $375 in the third year.

In its decision, the board also stipulated that a 25 percent nonrefundable deposit must be paid by May 1, with the remainder due Aug. 1, to guarantee enrollment for the nonresident student.

The board vote was witnessed by an audience of about 100 parents, residents and teachers. A petition bearing 38 signatures of district residents supported the increase, as did several individuals who spoke during a public comment period.

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