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Off Main Street / The offbeat side of the news

> Seeds of discontent?

Warning: "Blatant, excessive feeding of birds" after Nov. 15 will get you in trouble in Amherst.

That's the effective date for a law passed last week by town lawmakers -- who rarely agree on anything else. They mean business, too: Violators who persist can be fined up to $300, according to refuse control officer Len Fiegl.

The decision wasn't easy, though. Lawmakers, many of whom face the voters on Election Day, worried about whether they were "criminalizing an awful lot of people," as Council Member Dan Ward put it.

But Fiegl assured them the law is aimed at people who spread or allow large amounts of seed to cover the ground, which attracts rats.

"Some people have four or five feeders in their back yard. If they have a thousand birds, they are happy," Fiegl explained following the meeting.

That swayed the vote nicely.

"We want the rats out of Amherst," said Council Member Bill Kindel. "I'm a bird feeder. (But) I think it's us against the rats. Rats are not nice."

> Taxing one's patience

It would be understandable these days if an Erie County taxpayer had a question about the county budget.

So it would be equally understandable if said taxpayer went to the telephone directory and looked up the number for the Erie County Budget and Management Room. And sure enough, it's right there in the government listing in the Verizon phone book and the Talking Phone Book: 858-6378.

But the quest for fiscal knowledge ends with this message:

"You have been forwarded to a voice mail system. However, the person at 6378, does not subscribe to this service. Goodbye."

For the record, the number for the Office of Management and Budget is 858-8327.

> Waltzing with Walt

The name Walter Palmer might not ring a bell for most Western New Yorkers.

But maybe you know him by his nickname: the Accordion Man.

Palmer, a Rochester resident whose magic fingers and slightly off-key voice are a fixture at sporting events there, said he will be outside Ralph Wilson Stadium before this afternoon's Bills-Falcons game.

He said he doesn't get back to this part of the region as often as he used to, but downtown shoppers might remember him from his regular Friday gig outside AM&A's. For 20 years, until the store closed in 1995, Palmer took the bus from Rochester and regaled passers-by with his song stylings. He also plays outside the the Broadway Market from time to time.

He didn't say what numbers he would pull from his repertoire today, but you can be sure they will include "My Wild Irish Rose," "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" and "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

Will this be a one-time-only appearance? Palmer said if the weather is good, he might be back. After all, nothing says football quite like accordion music.

Written by Bruce Andriatch, with contributions from Thomas J. Dolan and Susan Schulman.

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