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NEWS IN BRIEF

County executive approves budget

MAYVILLE -- Chautauqua County Executive Mark W. Thomas has signed off on the $170.4 million budget approved by the Legislature last week.

Thomas said Tuesday he had signed the spending plan a short time after lawmakers adopted it in a 14-11 party-line vote last Wednesday. At first, he said he was likely to sign the budget early this week. But Thomas indicated he felt confident the budget was the best plan that lawmakers could have adopted.

"They (lawmakers) wanted some reductions. They came to me and asked for them, and we found them," he said. "So, in that regard, I think the process worked quite well, and I think we move forward into this new year with a 'tighter belt' than we had this year, and we'll find ways to deal with it."

Thomas and county legislators were able to pare down a preliminary $2.11 per $1,000 full value tax rate increase to $1.63. The executive blamed $1.40 of the hike on a $7.4 million increase in the local share of Medicaid costs.

The county will lobby state lawmakers to provide relief to beleaguered counties, most of whom faced major budget hikes because of the mandate, he said. Thomas said he felt state legislators will address the issue next year.

Construction of strip mall OK'd

LAKEWOOD -- The Village Board has given final approval for construction of a strip mall on 18 acres of land on Fairmount Avenue.

Mayor Anthony C. Caprino said lawmakers also voted Monday night to take on lead agency status for the environmental review of the project at the current Molly Brown's Agway location. Caprino noted the plaza will help bring more jobs to the area.

"They're going to add several new businesses, of course, and that helps everybody. It helps not only the people at the new businesses, but also the businesses that are already here," he explained. "There's proof positive all along Fairmount Avenue . . . that we've put a lot of people to work here over the past four or five years."

Caprino said owners Dennis and Molly Brown are planning to include 12,000 square feet of floor space in the mall, which will involve several buildings connected in a "U" shape.

The mayor indicated that the Browns have set no timetable for construction to begin, though much of the land is cleared. However, he said he expected work to begin shortly.

Thruway to be staffed during holiday

From toll collectors to highway maintenance crews to State Police patrols, the Thruway will be fully staffed when Thanksgiving holiday traffic kicks in this afternoon, Thruway Authority officials said.

The Wednesday before and the Sunday after Thanksgiving traditionally are two of the busiest days on the Thruway, officials said. Heaviest travel periods typically occur between noon and 8 p.m. on those days.

Locally, the Lackawanna and Williamsville toll barriers are among the heavy traffic areas in the state.

"While our crews will be out in full force, we ask that motorists stop and take a break if they feel drowsy or find their attention wavering while driving," said John Platt, executive director of the Thruway Authority.

Thruway construction in the Buffalo Division will stop at noon today and will resume at 10 a.m. Monday. Projects in the New York Division were halted at 6 this morning, and similar stoppages in the Syracuse and Albany Divisions took effect Tuesday afternoon.

Current Thruway road conditions are available 24 hours a day at (800) 847-8929 and on the following AM radio frequencies: 1610 in the Buffalo, Albany and Newburgh areas; 1620 in the Syracuse area; and 530 in the Tappan Zee Bridge corridor.

Chamber to post 'Sharing Tree'

The Boston Chamber of Commerce will place its fifth annual "Sharing Tree" in the lobby of the Boston Town Hall on Friday.

The tree is decorated with angel ornaments bearing the name and age of a child. Residents can take the ornament, buy a toy, tape the ornament on the wrapped gift and place it under the tree by Dec. 16.

The toys will be delivered to the children by Christmas Eve.

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