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As Niagara Falls / Tales of the strange but true

>Big Christmas present

Somebody has to sign the $8 million worth of signing bonus checks the New York Power Authority handed out last week to members of the Niagara Power Coalition as part of the Niagara Power Project relicensing settlement.

The person in the Town of Niagara is Supervisor Steven C. Richards.

We think he was joking when a News reporter asked him what he plans to do with the town's nearly $1.1 million share:

"I'm cashing it in 5s and 10s, and I'm leaving the country."

Other coalition representatives might be similarly tempted. Niagara County, Niagara Falls, the Town of Lewiston and the Niagara Falls, Lewiston-Porter and Niagara-Wheatfield school districts received gifts of about the same size last week.

We're talking big money here, much of it in the hands of politicians. But it's money designed to help citizens affected by the sprawling electrical plant in Lewiston, fed by the waters of the Niagara River.

So Richards' hands are tied. More seriously, he said officials will put $600,000 into the second phase of the town Community Center and the rest into the general fund, using half of that to pay back money borrowed to cover the town's state-mandated pension costs.

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>Leaving a mark

Gone are the days when bomb threats were considered a nuisance. Now they are considered terrorism -- even when written in pink magic marker.

Starpoint Superintendent Douglas Whelan followed district codes when evacuating the school after threats of bombs in the school were found on a girls bathroom stall Tuesday.

Whelan said officials took the threat very seriously. Bomb-sniffing dogs, state troopers and even representatives from the Joint Terrorism Task Force were called in to investigate.

The note, written in pink magic marker, had the word "bombs" circled and threatened that four pipe bombs were in the school. It also said "I'll rob the school of their riches."

The all-clear was sounded several hours later, and students were sent home early.

A 16-year-old female student was arrested on a felony charge of reporting a false incident at a school. No bombmaking materials were found.

Despite the severe penalties, the charges did not deter terrorists-to-be. At least two copycats made similar false threats in other districts the next day.

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>Close to home

Legislator Glenn S. Aronow, R-Lockport, sought and won $4,000 in funding for the Niagara County Auxiliary Police, a volunteer group that often works on crowd control at local events.

"If we had to pay deputies to do what the Niagara County Auxiliary Police does for free, it would cost the taxpayers $485,000," said Aronow. Thus, he concluded, it would be fair to give them some money for new uniforms and gear.

"I gave you a list of assignments for this year," Aronow recently told his colleagues. "They're all over the county. The Youngstown parade, the Wilson field days, the County Fair of course."

Peering at the list, Legislator Rebecca E. Cuddahee asked about her city. "Where's Niagara Falls?" she asked.

"They're not on here," Aronow answered. And in fact, the overwhelming majority of Auxiliary Police assignments were in Lockport.

The lawmakers approved the $4,000 anyway.

With contributions from Pam Kowalik, Nancy A. Fischer and Thomas J. Prohaska of the News Niagara Bureau.

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