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As Niagara Falls / Tales of the strange but true

>Two-time loser

A Buffalo man who was losing on the casino floor tried to get lucky in the housekeeping closet last month.

The suspect was stopped by State Police Investigator Ryan P. Shanahan in the Seneca Niagara Casino and charged with taking a wall-mounted hair dryer, a personal computer modem and 182 miniature bottles of shampoo from an unlocked housekeeping closet.

Christopher W. Beenau, 42, told troopers he decided to take the stuff because of all that he had lost at the casino.

Beenau pleaded not guilty in Niagara Falls City Court and was released on his own recognizance -- but after his confession to state police, his odds for acquittal don't appear that good either.

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>Reflections on youth

Two juveniles were stopped by Niagara County sheriff's deputies last week running away from a home, in the dark, in the Town of Wheatfield.

The two were easy to spot. They had been stealing driveway reflectors.

Deputies observed one boy carrying the reflectors and then followed footprints that led them to a home nearby. Both boys were not charged. After replacing the reflectors, valued at about $10, both were released to the custody of their parents, who, we suspect, have the youngsters doing a lot of reflecting of their own these days.

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>Long and short of it

County Legislator Richard E. Updegrove, R-Lockport, showed up at Tuesday's Administration Committee meeting with a new hair style: practically none.

Updegrove had gone in for a very close buzzcut.

"I like your haircut," said County Manager Gregory D. Lewis, stroking his own thinning thatch.

"I'm going snowboarding this weekend, and the hair was getting in my eyes," Updegrove explained.

"Was it falling off?" asked Majority Leader Malcolm A. Needler, R-North Tonawanda.

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>The law of exceptions

Although two county department heads said last week that Legislator Clyde L. Burmaster's resolution regarding retirement health insurance for newly hired county workers merely duplicates previous measures, Burmaster said the issue isn't dead.

The Buffalo News reported Jan. 18 that the Legislature had already done away with such benefits in 2004 for its own new members elected in 2003 or later, and for part-time attorneys hired after 2003.

At the time, County Manager Gregory D. Lewis and Human Resources Director Peter P. Lopes thought Burmaster's measure might apply only to the four coroners, two part-time Board of Elections clerks and the county historian.

The News reported a few days later that Lopes had determined the coroners weren't affected, because they are deemed full-time by the payroll office.

Tuesday, Lopes and Risk and Insurance Director Jennifer R. Pitarresi told reporters that the two elections clerks and the historian don't receive any health coverage at all, so Burmaster's proposal wouldn't impact them, either.

"There's no one we can tell who would be affected by this," Pitarresi said.

The next day, Burmaster said he called Lewis to complain about department heads making statements like that to reporters without telling him first. "I'm not done with that resolution," Burmaster vowed. "I have differing information than they have."

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

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