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As Niagara Falls / Tales of the strange but true

> Hard lessons learned

The mere idea of Niagara Falls Mayor Vince Anello providing insight on shaping a casino deal in Buffalo bowled local residents over faster than a perfect strike at the Rapids Bowling Lanes.

Anello was asked by the Buffalo Common Council last week to tender advice about how to deal with issues involving the split of local casino revenues.

The mayor has been unable to squeeze out a penny of the more than $11 million in Seneca Niagara Casino revenue from last year earmarked for the Falls. The dough is in a state lockbox somewhere just waiting for the almost-broke, boarded-up, broken-down, pothole-riddled city to get its hands on. The city and Niagara County are squabbling over who should get the bigger share, a dispute that recently was thrown out by a state court judge and is currently in limbo.

Seneca officials plan to announce their site this month for the nation's downtown Buffalo casino. When the money starts rolling in, the city doesn't want to end up in the same pickle as Niagara Falls. So, to ensure safe financial passage of casino money into Buffalo coffers, city officials asked Anello to shuffle on down and give them some tips.

"Take care of any ambiguities before you sign," Anello told the City Council's Economic Development Committee.

Had only politicians in the Falls and Niagara County -- and those who represent them in Albany -- heeded such advice.

As Niagara Falls bets the chaos and bad blood between the city and county north of Erie is mild compared to what will happen between Erie County and Buffalo as two governments with state control boards start scrambling for a new pot of cash. Any wagers?

> Library wars

How embattled do those on the front lines of the library dispute in Niagara Falls feel these days?

A "Save the LaSalle Library" meeting Wednesday night gave some clues.

Library board of trustees Vice President Ken Hamilton told residents that he had served during Vietnam.

"Take me back!" he said. "This has been one of the most difficult times of my life."

City and library officials have been at odds for months over how much financial support the city's two libraries need. A State Supreme Court judge ruled last week that city officials committed to steering $2 million toward the library budget this year; the city had claimed it could only pay about $1 million.

Both sides in the financial fight have allies.

As tensions climbed at the meeting, residents had plenty of pointed questions for Mayor Vince Anello. His sister, Rosalia Cristiano, a payroll clerk in the city finance department, often tried to answer those questions for him.

"Rose," Anello said to his sister, "I'm handling this meeting."

> The pace of government

Some City of Lockport officials think the city's tree-trimming program could use some help.

Aldermen get constant complaints about trees, and the three-man crew is usually swamped.

City Clerk and Budget Director Richard P. Mullaney told the Council last week that a public works consolidation program 20 years ago forgot to properly account for tree trimming, "which we now leave up to Mother Nature and God and our tree trimmers."

"Mother Nature and God move a little quicker," he added.

With contributions from Bill Michelmore, Gail Norheim and Thomas J. Prohaska of the News Niagara Bureau.

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