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DEAL ALLOWS WAL-MART TO KEEP TRAILERS

Your Christmas layaways are safe once again at the Wal-Mart here.

The Town Board voted 5-0 Tuesday to settle out of court with Wal-Mart and allow the store to keep 15 trailers used to hold layaway purchases on site.

Wal-Mart, in return, will pay the town $500 a day for 53 days, from Nov. 22 until Jan. 15, a total of $26,500.

The cash will go toward the town's Community Center Capital Improvement Fund.

The board's resolution also requires that all trailers be removed by Jan. 15 and that Thomas Fruck, manager of the Wal-Mart store, must send a letter of apology to the Town Board for keeping the trailers without the necessary town permit.

Fruck was unavailable Tuesday for comment.

During a special meeting, Town Attorney Robert P. Merino said he and a representative of Wal-Mart calculated the payment on the basis of the amount the company could have been fined if Wal-Mart were forced to come to Town Court.

"They said that they are removing all of them Jan. 15, so I guess they've made other arrangements," Councilman Marc M. Carpenter said of the storage trailers.

The board voted a few weeks ago to send the case to State Supreme Court because of a perceived conflict of interest with one of the town's justices.

But Supervisor Steven C. Richards said the settlement will end the case.

In another matter, board members let their feelings be known to County Legislator Danny W. Sklarski, D-Town of Niagara, a former town councilman, on the County Legislature's proposal to seek a 1 percentage point increase in the sales tax and on the proposal to remove sheriff's patrols to balance the county budget without raising property taxes.

Sklarski asked the Town Board's opinion on the issues. He was the only member of the County Legislature to oppose asking the state for the extra sales tax.

Richards once again said that he does not favor raising the sales tax because the county would be the only entity to get the extra cash.

The money from sales tax revenues now is distributed by population throughout the county. Under the Legislature's proposal, the county would keep extra 1 percentage point.

Richards and the rest of the board said they also opposed the proposed cut in county road patrols.

"During these times of troubles, you think the last place you want to cut a budget is in the area of public safety," Richards said.

"It's nothing more than the county legislators putting a gun to the public's head and threatening them," Councilman Wallace W. Blake Jr. said.

Instead, Blake said, legislators should sit down with all the county's unions and discuss cuts.

The board also voted 5-0 to annex the site of the former LaSalle High School from the City of Niagara Falls. The Town Board declared itself as lead agent in the environmental review of the proposed takeover of the property, and then declared that such an annexation would not harm the environment.

e-mail: pkowalik@buffnews.com

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