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Niagara legislators call for state to set date for local primaries

The state's apparent inability to decide on a date for this year's primary election for state and local offices may cost Niagara County as much as $235,000, a county lawmaker said last week.

The County Legislature unanimously passed a resolution calling on Albany to place the state and local primary on the same date as the primary for congressional seats, which is to be held June 26.

For many years, New York primaries have been held on the second Tuesday in September, but in January a federal judge ruled that for federal offices, an earlier date is needed to make sure absentee ballots from military personnel around the world arrive in time to be counted.

A dispute between Republicans and Democrats in Albany over whether the state and local primaries also should be held June 26 has not been settled, but the calendar may take care of that.

It's been customary for nominating petitions to be circulated starting three months before a primary and to be handed in about a month later. Unless the state plans to compress the petition period, it's already too late to hold state and local primaries June 26.

That would mean four elections this year: Tuesday's presidential primary, the June 26 congressional primary, the state and local primary, and the Nov. 6 general election.

A resolution by the Legislature's three Democrats -- Dennis F. Virtuoso, Jason A. Zona and Owen Steed of Niagara Falls -- called the extra election "a $50 million unfunded mandate," referring to the estimated statewide cost of holding an election.

"It's also going to hurt voter turnout, with four elections in a year," said Zona, who gave the $235,000 county cost estimate.

In other matters, the Legislature endorsed requests for Niagara River Greenway money from the Town of Hartland and the Historic Palace Theatre in Lockport.

Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, said the Host Communities Standing Committee, which holds the Greenway purse strings in Niagara County, will meet sometime in May to decide whether to fund the requests.

Hartland is seeking $219,000, plus $25,000, for Greenway signs and a Greenway promotional kiosk. The latter would be installed in Hartland Town Park, where the town plans a $444,370 improvement project.

Additions would include lights for a ball diamond, a recreational trail, a new pavilion, a basketball court and a roller rink.

The theater is seeking $151,697 for a new marquee and repairs to an exterior wall and windows.