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T.J. Pignataro - Buffalo, NY

Environment Reporter for The Buffalo News since 2013. News Staff Reporter since 1998. Previous beat assignments included suburban coverage in WNY and the News' bureau at Buffalo Police HQ. Former staff reporter at the Altoona Mirror (1997-98) and Dunkirk Observer (1995-97), and assistant news director at WBTA-1490, Batavia (1994-95).


At a time when civic leaders nationwide are raising the call for closer relationships between community and schools, such a concept is far from new in Depew, according to school and business leaders.More than 150 Depew School District staff and students as well as area business and civic leaders sat down over pancakes, pastries, coffee and juice Friday morning to celebrate…

School officials in Depew are praising a $29.1 million budget for 2001-02, with a planned 3 percent increase in taxes, as a victory for both taxpayers and students.Under the proposed budget, which was presented Thursday by Business Manager Theresa A. Rusin, the overall tax rate would increase by about 61 cents per $1,000 of full value, from $19.91 to $20.52.Broken down by …

The Clarence Town Board on Wednesday unanimously approved rezoning nearly 28 acres off Keller Road from agricultural to residential, despite public pressure and a petition against the measure from surrounding landowners.Nearly 30 residents who live close to the proposed 30-home Keller Road Estates subdivision attended a public hearing that lasted nearly an hour."These regu…

A new 5,200-square-foot Bank of Akron branch is a step closer to construction following Wednesday night's site plan approval by the Clarence Town Planning Board.The one-story, brick-facade building planned for 9865 Main St. will be the bank's fourth overall location and its second in the Town of Clarence.Bank of Akron President E. Peter Forrestel II said the bank hopes to …

West Seneca School Superintendent Richard Sagar was fired and ordered to turn over his district keys on the spot during a meeting of the School Board on Monday.Deputy Superintendent John Schleifer, a 34-year veteran with the district, was appointed to the superintendent's post temporarily.The board, after retiring to a 90-minute executive session just after the start of th…

The West Seneca Central School Board voted 6 to 1 Monday to adopt a 2001-02 budget of $77.1 million that hikes taxes 11 percent. The proposed budget, which will go before voters on May 15, features the largest tax hike in more than 10 years.Trustee Howard Avnet cast the lone vote against the budget.But trustee James Asztalos presented the budget as frugal and necessary."Pe…

Getting children to put down the PlayStation and turn off the television set for a few good books never has been so easy in Depew schools.The partnership between the district and Lancaster Area Chamber of Commerce, which awards students incentive points and prizes for each book they read, has taken off, school officials say."It's really, really a great program," said James…

A routine fire department call for a strong ammonia odor at a Jamestown residence led to the arrest of four people on felony drug charges and the seizure of what police estimate to be $500,000 in drugs from the suspected headquarters of a narcotics manufacturing ring.The Jamestown Fire Department was called to the area of 637 Palmer St. on Friday evening because of a foul …

A proposed change in the Lancaster Village Code could open up the electrical inspection business to competition.The Village Board agreed Monday to set a public hearing for 8:15 p.m. March 26 on changing the code's Chapter 71 provisions governing electrical standards in the village.Under the current code, the New York Board of Fire Underwriters is the only duly appointed in…

The phone never stopped ringing Friday for the family of U.S. Navy Lt. John Anthony Skop Jr.Calls rolled in one after another from Navy officials, clergy, family and friends offering condolences and assistance to the family of the 29-year-old former Clarence resident who died in California on Wednesday training to become a Navy SEAL.It was a testament to how much Skop was …

The Clarence Planning Board on Wednesday tabled three requests for temporary conditional permits on existing businesses that have long operated in the town without permits.Most prominent of the three was a request by William Gary Scaratine, who has operated a wholesale automotive operation at 5730 Shimerville Road since 1989 without town permits.Scaratine, who told the boa…

The Depew School Board, which is losing its high school assistant principal to Williamsville next week, appointed Peter Allen, a veteran Williamsville secondary assistant principal who retired last year, as a tentative replacement for the rest of the school year, officials said Thursday.Allen fills the vacancy created by the departure of Petrina Scinta, who will become ass…

Members of the Lancaster Village Board will meet with members of the village's Planning, Historic and Zoning Appeals boards as well as the Lancaster Community Development Corp. in coming weeks to complete revisions in the village's zoning code, officials announced Monday.That determination was made after a public hearing on the issue at which no additional comments were of…

Village of Lancaster residents will have one last chance tonight to voice their opinions about proposed amendments to the village zoning code for the downtown business district.A final public hearing on zoning changes in the business district is set for 8:30 p.m. during the regular meeting of the Village Board in Village Hall.Highlighting the alterations in the code are pl…

Depew school officials outlined plans Thursday that show modest increases in the district's budget for special education for the coming year.The district's budget for special education, including tuition and school psychology, is expected to increase by more than $112,000, to $746,918 from $634,909, according to estimates by Susan Gillick, head of the pupil and personnel s…