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CHILDREN SHAKEN WHEN BULLETS HIT WINDOWS

Children in their classrooms Friday at Early Childhood Center 61, 437 Leroy Ave., were shaken when shots rang out.

No one was injured, but the bullets damaged two windows on the school's East Side, Buffalo police said.

School personnel were unable to identify the shooters but reported seeing two vehicles at the time of the incident, including a black Firebird with tinted windows and another gold-colored car regularly seen in the neighborhood, police said.

The Early Childhood Center serves children in prekindergarten through second grade.

West Nile virus found in six more birds

Six more dead birds have tested positive for the West Nile virus in Erie County, county health officials said Friday.

The dead birds, five crows and a blue jay, were found in West Seneca, Hamburg, Derby, and Evans, said Health Department spokesman Kevin Montgomery.

Dead birds, especially crows, infected with the virus are seen by health experts as a sign that West Nile virus is present in an area. West Nile can sicken humans with flulike symptoms, and in its worst forms can cause encephalitis, a swelling of the brain.

Man gets jail for attack on priest

Erie County Judge Michael L. D'Amico on Friday sentenced a Kenmore man to 3 1/2 years in prison for the Feb. 14 attack on a Catholic priest in a North Buffalo church.

Frank Ciamarra, 27, told the judge he wanted to apologize to the Rev. Arthur J. Mattulke, 30, who wrote D'Amico asking him to show mercy in sentencing the defendant.

Ciamarra pleaded guilty July 13 to a third-degree attempted assault for stabbing the priest in St. Margaret's Catholic Church on Hertel Avenue.

The judge said he will recommend that state prison officials provide Ciamarra professional help in prison, noting that at the time of the attack he was under treatment for depression and anxiety attacks.

Mattulke was hospitalized overnight and needed nine stitches for wounds in his back. He also suffered a broken wrist in the attack.

Three rob McDonald's Restaurant of $300

A McDonald's Restaurant on Main Street was robbed late Thursday night by three men who demanded access to the store's safes, according to Buffalo police.

Three suspects wearing dark clothes, ski masks and gloves entered the restaurant at 1338 Main St. just after midnight and told the store manager to open the restaurant's two safes, police said. They made off with about $300 in cash.

Lawyer guilty in bid to fence Dickens' book

ALBION -- A lawyer was convicted Friday of conspiring to sell a rare edition of Charles Dickens' novel "The Pickwick Papers" that police seized as part of a large-scale drug investigation three years ago.

An Orleans County jury found Paul Heiligenthaler guilty of one count each of conspiracy and criminal possession of stolen property.

A 1999 indictment accused the North Carolina resident, formerly of Medina, of having control over the more than 150-year-old book, which was stolen in a burglary in Medina and recovered in a series of drug and weapons raids.

Police said one of the men arrested during the drug raids had been in possession of the book and that Heiligenthaler had been actively looking for buyers for it, believing it to be worth tens of thousands of dollars. It was later appraised at between $1,500 and $2,000.

Heiligenthaler, representing himself at trial, accused prosecutors of setting him up as revenge for Heiligenthaler's criticism of law enforcement officials.

Tiger has been golden draw for zoo

Sahib, the golden tiger, has been a golden draw for the Buffalo Zoo, helping push attendance well past year-ago levels since his arrival Aug. 1.

As a result, the popular exhibit will be extended through Oct. 30, the zoo said Friday.

The 6-year-old tiger, which due to a recessive gene has only golden stripes -- without the black characteristic of other tigers -- will return to his home at the Caribbean Gardens in Naples, Fla., in early November. Sahib is on display from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.

Giambra seeks cooperative to cut costs

County Executive Joel A. Giambra said Friday he is seeking to establish a joint purchasing cooperative that will enable local municipalities and school districts to buy goods and services in bulk quantity for better cost savings.

The cooperative venture, which will need County Legislature approval to go forward, will be managed by the Erie 1 Board of Cooperative Educational Services and the BOCES School Municipal Energy Cooperative, Giambra said.

The proposed cooperative will enable Erie County and its towns, villages, cities, school districts, and fire districts to join together to purchase goods and services, Giambra said. A pilot project for the program will include BOCES, the towns of Tonawanda and Cheektowaga, Lackawanna, and the Amherst Central and Tonawanda Central school districts, he said.

Cheektowaga faces 1st tax hike in 3 years

The first town tax hike in three years is in store for Cheektowaga residents, but how much won't be known until Monday.

Supervisor Dennis H. Gabryszak said officials had hoped to finish work on the town's new budget on Friday. However, they have until the end of the working day Monday because the deadline under state law falls on a weekend this year, he said.

A potential 14 percent tax increase early in the week had been reduced to less than 10 percent by noon Friday, heading into a meeting with the town's financial consultants, Deloitte & Touche.

"I'd like to get it down to 4 or 5 percent, but that might be a stretch," Gabryszak said. "One thing I'm not going to do is jeopardize our bond rating by using more than 15 percent of our surplus to bring down the tax rate," he said.

Cheektowaga's tax rate is $12.87 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, 41 cents less than it was in 1998.

Fiscal problems that budget planners say they must deal with next year include the loss of more than $11 million in taxable assessed valuation, union pay increases and a sharp downturn in revenues from Cheektowaga Town Court.

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