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LOCAL NEWS BRIEFS - Final

Preservation Board OKs design of corporate site

The Buffalo Preservation Board on Thursday approved the proposed BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York corporate headquarters at 249 W. Genesee St.

The 8-2 vote cleared a major hurdle toward development of what would be the largest privately funded building downtown in more than a decade. The project will keep 1,300 jobs in Buffalo, reclaim a brownfield and retain use of an 1848 Gas Works facade.

Critics contend the modern glass and concrete design resembles a suburban office park, while architect Steven R. Risting of CSO Schenkel Shultz says it will be a landmark building that unites Buffalo's past with its future.

A final decision was delayed on the project's entryway, finished materials and facade restoration until new plans are submitted.

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Reynolds seeks probe of rail car derailment

Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds called for an investigation into Thursday morning's rail accident, in which a railroad car carrying an empty container that transports spent nuclear fuel derailed in Buffalo.

Reynolds called on the Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration and CSX Railroad to launch a formal investigation.

"If the DOE and CSX are going to ship these rail cars through our hometown, they need to make certain the proper procedures are in place to prevent an accident like this," said the Clarence Republican.

Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, said he has been assured there was no threat to public safety, but he expressed concern about the incident. "Transporting spent fuel through populated areas is a serious threat to local communities, and what happened Thursday in Buffalo is a wake-up call that we need to better address how, as a nation, we move and store nuclear waste," he said.

The car derailed at about 1 a.m. in CSX's Frontier Yard off Broadway. The empty container, designed to transport U.S. Navy spent nuclear fuel, was en route from an Idaho facility to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine.

Authorities said the container remained intact and there was no release of radioactivity. The DOE stated that these containers, with 14-inch stainless steel walls, can withstand much more serious incidents, such as collisions, fire and immersion in water.

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Helfer likely to win Conservative Party nod

Erie County Board of Elections officials counted primary election write-in votes from one-third of the precincts in Buffalo on Thursday and said Republican mayoral candidate Kevin J. Helfer is well on his way to winning the Conservative Party nomination. Commissioners expect to certify final results in the race late tonight.

Helfer received 60 write-in votes from wards in the Delaware, Ellicott and Fillmore districts, officials reported. With two districts considered Helfer strongholds -- South and University -- among the six yet to be counted, it appears likely that he will surpass Democrat Byron W. Brown's 90 votes citywide. Brown's name appeared on the voting machines. Voters had to write in Helfer's name.

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