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AREA RESIDENTS TAKE CONCERNS TO PRESENT

State Sen. Jess Present, R-Bemus Point, addressed questions on the STAR program, the Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act and the proposed constitutional convention posed Thursday by about 75 people gathered in Dunkirk City Hall.

Regarding the Constitutional Convention, Present said he does not believe it would be beneficial to his district.

"It will really be a battle with upstate rural areas against the metropolitan areas," the senator said, explaining that there would be three delegates for every senate district.

Town of Dunkirk Councilman Wilfred Apps asked how funding will be distributed under the Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act.

David King of the Majority Finance Committee said state agencies will rank the projects and funding will be awarded based on the ranking.

The audience also asked questions on the deadline for filing an application under the School Tax Release, or STAR program. Shawn McKinnon of the Majority Finance Committee said senior citizens earning $12,500 or less should apply by March 2 with their local assessor's office for an exemption in 1998-99.

A member of the audience said she disagrees with tax exemptions granted to the Cattaraugus and Allegany Indian Reservations.

"The rest of us are paying taxes like you can't believe, and if they want to be sovereign then they should be off of our welfare, food stamps and schools," she said, adding, "nobody seems to know where our tax dollars are going to come from and this is a good place to start."

Present said it is difficult to break the treaties.

A Ripley resident asked Present where he could get help in negotiating construction of a natural gas pipeline that would cross through his yard and a pond supporting wildlife. The project is expected to run from Canada to New York City.

"There is no easement through my property," the resident said. Present indicated that public hearings on the project will offer residents the opportunity to comment on it.

Other residents complained about an 8 percent hospital tax.

"How could you have put an 8 percent tax on hospitals?" an audience member asked.

Present said he has introduced legislation to eliminate the tax.

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