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As Niagara Falls / Tales of the strange but true

The wild ones

While most area schools are losing population, Niagara Charter School on Lockport Road in Wheatfield has picked up 10 unrecruited, on-campus residents.

The matter was of such importance that School Executive Director Gary Stillman placed the matter at the top of his agenda at last week's school board meeting.

The number one item, Stillman told the board, was a mallard family of 10.

"The ducks hatched and are at the pond," he said. "They are happy. They are being well fed by the kids and everyone else. So they're here to stay."

After the meeting, Stillman divulged further details on the new additions.

"They built a nest right under the kindergarten window," he said. "The mom sat on the eggs and the kids would come outside and throw her bread so she wouldn't have to leave the nest. Eventually, all eight ducklings hatched right under the window. This was a bonus for us."


Wanted: John Q. Public

North Tonawanda Common Council President Brett M. Sommer said he wasn't asking for the usual suspects when he announced that volunteers were needed for a master plan steering committee.

But that's what he got.

Sommer said the 15 letters of interest submitted so far to City Clerk Thomas Jaccarino are all politically connected and already on city or local committees.

"They're all the same people. I'm looking for more regular citizens who have a vision for where they want the city to go," he said. "I'm really looking for fresh names and fresh faces from all walks of life."

The idea for residents to serve on a steering committee is to take the politics out of writing a new master plan for the city.

Sommer said volunteers don't have to be a professional engineer, just a resident.

According to the recent 2000 Census update, 31,000 people live in North Tonawanda, but Sommer said it feels like the same 15 people, or .0005 percent of the population, are the only ones who want to help make decisions.


Pretrial diversion

Try to follow this. There may be a quiz later.

The trial of Niagara Falls murder suspect Shawn L. Gibson has been delayed from Sept. 4 to Oct. 15 because he needed a new attorney.

Angelo Musitano was appointed to represent Gibson because Gibson's former attorney, James C. Faso, has joined the county conflict defender office. Because Faso's now in the conflicts office, he has acquired a conflict of interest he didn't have before.

Because one of Faso's colleagues in the conflicts office, Michael W. McNelis, once prosecuted Gibson when he was an assistant district attorney, all the conflict office's lawyers have a conflict of interest and can't have any further dealings with Gibson.

Ironically, the conflicts office was created by the Niagara County Legislature to provide a staff of salaried defense attorneys to avoid having to bring in assigned counsel at the state-mandated fee of $75 per hour for defendants whom the public defender's office can't represent because they have conflicts.

Apparently, legal conflicts are like the avian flu -- they infect everyone in the office.


The grateful dead

Some Lockport citizens portraying figures from the city's past attended the Common Council meeting to promote Erie Canal Discovery Center tours of historic sites in the city.

Mayor Michael W. Tucker introduced the first performer as Diane Koplas.

"I'm not Diane Koplas. I'm Aunt Edna," said Koplas, obviously a method actor. "The mayor was misinformed."

"Aunt Edna" said that her husband was responsible for naming the city in 1821, when he was hanging out in a bar and they started talking about names for the village near the locks. Lockport was chosen over Lockborough.

Clinton J. Starke, portraying Gov. DeWitt Clinton, said he was so impressed with what is going on in Lockport, he'd like to retire here.

"Unfortunately," he said, "I died in 1828 and I'm buried in Albany, so it's a little difficult."

With contributions from Paul Westmoore, Gail Franklin, Thomas J. Prohaska and Pam Kowalik of the News Niagara Bureau.

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