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WATER AUTHORITY PLANNING TO REDUCE DEBT

The Erie County Water Authority, having a financially successful year despite soggy weather that cut water consumption in the county, has announced plans to pay off about $4.1 million of its debt at the end of the year.

By paying off the debt, the Water Authority will have retired debt every year for the past three years, authority officials said.

"This is a win-win for the authority, town and village officials in our service area who must estimate water costs in their budgets and, most importantly, our customers," said Robert J. Lichtenthal Jr., chairman of the Water Authority's board of commissioners.

In 1998, the authority paid off $7.8 million of its debt, while in 1999 the authority paid off $13.7 million of the debt, officials said.

Lichtenthal said reducing the agency's debt is good news for consumers, enabling the authority to keep a lid on water rates, which have not increased since 1998.

"Paying off this debt will help us stabilize residential rates and hydrant fees," Lichtenthal said. "This is further proof that our fiscal management policies and commitment to reform are producing significant results."

Lawmakers seek to eliminate energy taxes

Assembly Minority Leader John J. Faso joined three area Republican assemblymen Tuesday to call for the immediate elimination of two state energy taxes.

Faso, R-Kinderhook, appeared in downtown Buffalo with Assemblymen James P. Hayes of Amherst, Rob Daly of Lewiston and David Seaman of Lockport to seek an end to the gross receipts tax on energy for manufacturers as well as the sales tax on transmission of gas and electricity.

The three said now is a good time to consider such a tax break to head off a state windfall at the expense of homeowners and small-business owners facing high heating costs this winter. They said that without their plan, the state could reap as much as $30 million from the taxes.

Faso said that depending on the eventual cost of gas and electricity this winter, homeowners could see savings of $100 and small businesses even more.

"If we don't act, the state will reap a tax windfall due to rising energy costs at the same time as it posts another surplus," Faso said, "and that would be particularly unfair to consumers who already face higher bills."

Conference to focus on arts education

Arts education and its impact on children and adults will be the focus of the second annual "Capitalize the Arts" conference Oct. 17 in Shea's Performing Arts Center.

"A Tool for Learning, a Source of Healing" will be the theme explored by arts educators and therapists during the daylong conference sponsored by the Arts Council in Buffalo and Erie County.

Presenters include Sydney Waller, executive director of the New York State Alliance for Arts Education; Sharon E. Dunn, senior assistant for the arts, New York City Board of Education; Robert Horowitz, associate director, Columbia University Center for Arts Education Research; Patricia Reitkopf, director, performance/prevention programs, Hospital Audiences; Naj Wikoff, director of the Healing & Arts Project, C. Everett Koop Institute, Dartmouth College; Molly Rich, artist and art therapist, Spectrum Human Services; and Elizabeth Davis, art therapist.

The event will be preceded by a Glitzy Blitz party at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 16 in Shea's. Admission to the party will be $15 -- or free with the $80 full-day conference package. Additional information can be obtained from the Arts Council.

Medical open house for high schoolers

An open house meeting for high school students who want to pursue careers in medicine and health care will be held at 3 p.m. next Wednesday in Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 3495 Bailey Ave.

Participants in the VA Medical Center's Explorers program will participate in hands-on training, service projects and seminars that are designed to give students firsthand experience in seeing what a career in health care is all about.

Celoron permits use of unusual planters

CELORON -- Mayor Richard Slagle said Tuesday that the Town Board Monday night approved an amendment to the trash ordinance proposed by resident John Simpson that will allow anything "reasonably" kept up to be used as a planter.

The amendment was triggered by a controversy sparked by the mayor's daughter, Laurie Schrecengost, who used old toilets on her lawn as planters.

Schrecengost was issued a summons to Ellicott Town Court, triggering an uproar that resulted in more than 50 people attending a public meeting, where Simpson made his suggestion.

Slagle said, "The amendment simply states that anything that is clean and/or painted and is reasonably maintained and is used to hold flowers or shrubbery will be permitted and won't be considered trash."

Slagle indicated that everyone involved appears to be satisfied.

"They were especially pleased with the fact that we had put in an appeal process so that anyone who disagrees with the zoning officer's decision regarding the use of an item for a planter can appeal it to the Zoning Board of Appeals rather than having it go to court," he said.

State grants promote safe drinking water

Six safe-drinking-water projects in Western New York are among 196 across the state that will share $575 million in state water grants, Gov. George E. Pataki announced Tuesday.

The funding is provided under a memorandum of understanding agreed upon by the governor, State Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. The grants include:

$4,481,015 to the Buffalo Water Authority to upgrade its water treatment plant.

$1.425,000 to Aurora Water District 7 in the Town of Aurora for a new water distribution system and upgrading the current system.

$688,555 to the Village of Farnham to improve its water lines and distribution system and build new water storage.

$282,500 to Town of Newstead Water District 5 to create a new water district.

$1,454,885 to the Bliss Water Supply in Eagle to upgrade the ground water source, build new storage and improve the distribution system.

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