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OFF MAIN STREET / The offbeat side of the news

Snow job

How much would you have bet in October that not a single Erie County school district would have to cancel school because of snow this school year?

Too bad you didn't make the bet.

After checking with member districts, Donald Ogilvie, superintendent of Erie I BOCES, confirmed Friday that the winter that wasn't was also the winter without snow days, the first time he recalls this happening. In years when a district had more snow days than expected, additional instructional days have been added, which made us wonder: Will districts eliminate those days this year?

Ogilvie said a "handful" of districts have contracts with their teachers that call for a day to be given back, usually at Memorial Day, in the event of a year without snow days. So keep your fingers crossed, kids. Winter is over, but a sort-of snow day is still possible.


Prison stripes are slimming

Alleged British con man Mark D. Jones was finally supposed to be extradited to Nevada this week, but after cooling his heels in the Niagara County Jail for three months, there's less of him to send back.

Jones, 44, faces trial in Las Vegas on charges that he swindled an ex-girlfriend out of $130,000 in a 2004 investment scheme. The delay in shipping him to Nevada was caused by the need to obtain a governor's warrant after Jones initially fought extradition following his Jan. 8 arrest at the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls.

"Have you lost weight?" Niagara County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III asked Tuesday. About 30 pounds, Jones answered. "It's all because of your wonderful cuisine," he said.


Dining for dollars

At a news conference Monday, State Sen. George D. Maziarz noticed something important about the list of 15 Lockport businesses that received city microenterprise grants.

The grants, paid with state money Maziarz said he won for the city, included awards to Lake Effect Ice Cream, Donna's Restaurant, KM Treats and D'Vine Wine Bar. "There is a huge emphasis here on food," said Maziarz, who moved his district office to downtown Lockport last year. "It's great to be able to walk out of your office and get something to eat." Not to worry, senator. The Lockport location of Diet Doc Buffalo also obtained a grant.


Tote-al excitement

At a recent Amherst Town Board work session, county and town officials engaged in a lively debate about a proposal on local industrial development agencies. It would curb their ability to unilaterally issue countywide tax breaks to local projects of "questionable" value.

After lengthy discussion, Supervisor Barry Weinstein moved to the next agenda item -- the purchase of recycling totes and their distribution to residents. This prompted a noisy mass exodus of people who had attended for the IDA discussion. "You guys aren't interested in totes?" asked Weinstein.

In the ensuing laughter, Council Member Guy Marlette called out to neighboring Supervisor David Hartzell, "You might want 'em for Clarence."


President irrelevant

April's issue of Vanity Fair has more proof that Buffalo's Millard Fillmore is the Rodney Dangerfield of presidents.

The magazine partners with CBS' "60 Minutes" on a monthly, wide-ranging poll of the American public.

April's questions included how many children you should have, who was the best James Bond and what you would change about your spouse.

They also listed four men and asked who hadn't served as U.S. president: Fillmore, Benjamin Harrison, Alexander Hamilton and Andrew Jackson.

Thirty-six percent of respondents picked Fillmore, our 13th president, while only 24 percent correctly named Hamilton.

Vanity Fair's editors noted Fillmore doesn't have the strongest presidential reputation. But, they wrote, "Choosing him as a non-president won't actually make him a non-president. Still, the sentiment is, well, to be appreciated."

Written by Stephen T. Watson with contributions from Bruce Andriatch, Thomas J. Prohaska and Sandra Tan.