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NIAGARA NEWS BRIEFS

Health Department reports 15 cases of pertussis

LOCKPORT -- Niagara County has had 15 confirmed cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, so far this year, the county Health Department said Friday. That's more than the 11 cases the county recorded in all of 2011.

No deaths have occurred, although several infants have been hospitalized, the department said. The youngest pertussis sufferer was two months old; the oldest was age 65. Most of the cases were in school-age children; cases have been found in all parts of the county, and more test results are pending.

The disease is highly contagious but can be effectively prevented with vaccination. It can be treated with antibiotics when it occurs.

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Metro Bus 201 to continue running through August

LOCKPORT -- Metro Bus 201 will keep rolling on its current schedule through August, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority spokesman C. Douglas Hartmayer said Friday.

The NFTA has planned to shut down Bus 201, a MetroLink route connecting Lockport shopping centers and housing complexes, because of low ridership. Protests from citizens and politicians led the authority to keep the bus going past the May 13 shutdown date.

Hartmayer said the NFTA has been meeting with the county Social Services Department, which operates a federally subsidized bus system connecting Lockport with rural communities. "There are a lot of options in play," he said.

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Schumer plans to push for heritage area funds

NIAGARA FALLS -- U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced this week that he is pushing the National Park Service to review and approve a management plan for a regional heritage area.

Schumer said the Niagara region would be eligible for up to $10 million in federal funding to develop the history and heritage of the area, compared with the $150,000 per year for which the heritage area is currently eligible.

The commission recently developed a management plan with recommendations about signage and historical exhibits throughout the region.

"Just like the beautiful waterfalls for which Niagara is famous, the Niagara Falls region is flowing with history and culture that must be restored and harnessed for tourism, jobs and economic growth in the region," Schumer said in a statement.

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Officials criticize closing of E-ZPass walk-in center

Local elected officials Friday stood outside the E-ZPass Center walk-in center on Grand Island to urge state Thruway Authority officials to implement a new cash payment system for E-ZPass customers. The center closed on Friday.

"This plan has made absolutely no sense from the very start," said Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo. "I think it's great that the Thruway Authority is looking for ways to save money, but to close the E-ZPass walk-in center on Grand Island without first implementing a new system for cash payments is ridiculous."