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>Workers' role at speech by Giambra questioned

Erie County Comptroller Mark C. Poloncarz wants key officials in the administration of County Executive Joel A. Giambra to explain why some workers in the county's Home Energy Assistance Program served as ushers Thursday during Giambra's State of the County address.

The workers, whose salaries are covered by the federal government, should not have been told they would be paid as usual for time spent working at the speech, Poloncarz said.

"I cannot imagine that the federal government would look kindly upon Erie County employees working at such an event in any role outside of their normal duties of helping needy persons acquire home-energy assistance," Poloncarz wrote in a letter to Giambra, Social Services Commissioner Michael Weiner and Senior Services Commissioner Pamela Krawczyk.

A Giambra spokesman said the administration was looking into the matter, which involved only three or four workers. He said the practice of asking some county employees to work at the event has gone on for years.

Giambra spoke to a crowd of about 700 people in the Buffalo Convention Center.


>Earlier start planned for airport runway work

In response to homeowners affected by changed flight patterns, the timetable for work on the main runway at Buffalo Niagara International Airport has been modified, a spokesman for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority said Friday.

Work will start March 6, instead of April 1, and should be completed by Aug. 1 instead of Oct. 1, according to C. Douglas Hartmayer, director of public affairs.

"Our main objective is to lessen the inconvenience to the surrounding neighborhoods and return aviation activity to normal flight patterns as soon as possible," said Mary S. Martino, acting chairwoman of the NFTA.

The earlier start means much of the work will be done when homeowners will not have their windows open or be in their yards, lessening the impact of rerouted planes, Hartmayer said.


>Warm Up Room debuts in time for winter fest

The opening of the new Warm Up Room today is one of the highlights of the Evangola State Park Winter Festival in Brant.

Visitors will be able to get hot chocolate and coffee in the Warm Up Room starting at 10 a.m., with barbecued chicken and pullled pork available from noon to 4 p.m.

Activities in what is intended to be an annual event run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily and include a petting zoo from noon to 3 daily and -- if there's enough snow -- snowshoeing.

Today's events include snowmobile rides and a firefighter winter rescue competition. On Sunday, there will be a cross country ski workshop and tour and a snowmobile exhibit. On Monday, there will be a hay ride and snowman building contest.

For more information, call 549-1802 or go to

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