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AS NIAGARA FALLS
TALES OF THE STRANGE BUT TRUE

Good reading?

A typical person would get cross-eyed or just fall asleep while reading the mountains of documents associated with the types of site plans put before the Niagara Falls Planning Board.

But when members of that board recently spent hours perusing stacks of environmental assessments of subjects as engaging as soil testing on the Military Road site where a Super Wal-Mart and Sam's Club could go, they reacted, um . . . the way a planning board should.

"Reading about those 159 soil borings is pretty good reading," declared Senior City Planner Thomas DeSantis.

"I'm getting all excited," said board member Walter Garrow as he flipped through a report about noise levels in the Military Road area compiled by acoustical engineers for the developer.

Members were appointed to that board for a reason, and now we know why.

One of the environmental impacts the board must consider is whether the retail development at 1500 Military Road would impede the view of any important landscapes in the community.

"We're concerned this will be blocking the view to the landfill," said board member Matteo Anello, desperately trying to keep a straight face in front of the developer's lawyer.

They have a sense of humor, too.

Backing a candidate?

Retired Gen. Anthony Zinni said during a speech at Niagara County Community College on Tuesday that many Arab and other Muslim nations are on the cusp of entering the modern world and starting democratic and social reforms such as giving people the right to vote and allowing woman to hold government office.

Some Muslin countries seem to be more enlightened than the United States in some respects, Zinni said.

"I've seen women elected president in places like Pakistan, Turkey and Sri Lanka. I don't remember any American woman being elected president," he said.

A U.S. Marine since he was 18, Zinni rose through the ranks and was the former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East and in Southeast Asia.

He endorsed George W. Bush for president in 2000 but has since been a critic of the Iraq War. After his comments at NCCC, writers for As Niagara Falls wonder whether a certain female New York senator might be in line for his 2008 presidential endorsement.

This veteran will stay

Newfane School Superintendent James N. Mills was describing how tight the district's proposed 2005-06 budget was when an exchange with Newfane Teachers Association Vice President David D'Amato triggered some laughter at a budget hearing.

D'Amato said there was a possibility some money might be freed up if several teachers opt to retire. That would save about $30,000 per retiree, since new teachers are paid much less than those who've been around for 30 years.

"I know you have three resignations on the agenda, but I don't know what they are," D'Amato said.

Mills said there have been three teacher resignations so far this year, then quipped, "You're not one of them. It's not you -- yet."

The veteran teacher shot back, "I know, even though I got your letter -- and those late night phone calls (calling for his retirement). I recognized your voice."

D'Amato, free to retire at any time, then said there could be five or more teachers who decide to retire by June 30. "I've only been here 32 years," he said. "I have nine more to go."

With contributions from Gail Norheim and Paul Westmoore of the News Niagara Bureau.