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DelMonte disputes casino revenue use

Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte said Friday that Gov. George E. Pataki's plans to funnel $25 million in local casino revenue to USA Niagara Development Corp. is disrespectful of the wishes of local leaders and residents.

DelMonte criticized Pataki at a press conference in City Hall, where she urged the governor to sign a memorandum of understanding directing most of the money to the city, instead of USA Niagara, which is an agency of the state.

"We're here to collectively say, 'Governor, sign the memorandum of understanding and release the $25 million local share of casino revenues . . . so the city can continue to build infrastructure [and] a city in distress can begin the process of renewal, " said DelMonte, D-Niagara Falls, who is running for re-election.

DelMonte was joined by Mayor Vince Anello, City Council members, union leaders and residents who back the memorandum of understanding, which she and Sen. George D. Maziarz proposed in November.

The plan would direct three-quarters of Seneca Niagara Casino revenues from 2004 and 2005 to the city to distribute to agencies and city projects. Maziarz, R-North Tonawanda, did not attend the press conference.

"The host community is being left out again," said Niagara Falls Block Club Council leader Norma Higgs, who is against the revenues going to USA Niagara Development. "The city's residents know what is needed: health care and education."

Higgs said she mailed a letter to the governor this week urging him to sign on to the DelMonte-Maziarz plan, which does not include a guaranteed appropriation for USA Niagara Development -- a change from an earlier proposal.

The governor's recently proposed budget, expected to be approved in April, directs all revenue to USA Niagara over a three-year period, 2004-06.

A Pataki spokesman said USA Niagara would allocate the proceeds as follows: $3 million, Niagara Falls International Airport; $1 million, Conference Center Niagara Falls; $3.5 million, city infrastructure improvements and debt service; $3.9 million, city entertainment district; $9 million, Niagara Experience Center; $3 million, Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation; $3.5 million, to prepare land for development; and $8 million, acquisition of land on Third Street.

Under the DelMonte-Maziarz plan, both the Niagara Falls City School District and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center would receive nearly $2 million each for the two-year period, with more than $2 million going to the airport.

e-mail: gnorheim@buffnews.com

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