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As Niagara Falls / Tales of the strange but true

>Splash promised

County Legislator Jason J. Murgia of Niagara Falls ventured to the wilds of Olcott last Sunday to watch the Polar Bear Swim. He liked what he saw -- so much so that he vowed to go into icy Lake Ontario himself next year.

"That event was awesome. I'm doing that next year," Murgia vowed.

Murgia said he had never heard of the Polar Bear Swim, even though it's been going on for 37 years.

"He finally realizes there's more to Niagara County than Niagara Falls," teased Legislator John Syracuse of Newfane.

Murgia has a record as a daredevil. He said he has run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, eight times. He has made only two trips to Spain, but he said the street stampede is held daily for a week. And in politics, even though he's a registered Democrat, he runs with the Republicans.

Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, who at 72 has 39 years on Murgia, said there might be more than one lawmaker jumping into the lake next year.

"We're going to have a delegation from the Niagara County Legislature. It'll be part of the 2007 election campaign," Ross said. "Some of them won't let us out of the water."

For photos of the swim, see Page NC8.

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>Ugliness pays off

Mike Kostelnik of Pendleton has done work over the years in the kitchen, with the plumbing and with the electrical service in his house but admits he has barely touched the bathroom.

The oversight has paid off.

Kostelnik bested a field of more than 150 competitors to win the Ugliest Bathroom in Western New York contest, sponsored by the Kinetic Kitchen and Bath of Wheatfield.

"My wife doesn't seem to understand," Kostelnik said in a news release that announced his bathroom will get a $10,000 overhaul. "These projects take a long time."

The Kostelniks will receive complimentary design services and installation, said Christopher Connelly, president of Kinetic Kitchen.

Design work will take place this week, and, within three or four weeks, Connelly said, a crew will arrive and take two days to revamp the ugly bathroom in "Extreme Makeover"-like style.

They have work to do. The region's ugliest bathroom is small, contains a stained vanity and bathroom amenities that look straight out of the 1950s. The walls are a mixture of putrid green tile and bright purple paint.

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>More like a chill?

District Attorney Matthew J. Murphy III went before the County Legislature Administration Committee recently to try to get a vacant clerical job in his office reclassified and filled.

Murphy said the starting pay would be $1.17 an hour less, but the higher classification under civil service rules means the job would cost more money eventually.

At any rate, the county is supposed to have a hiring freeze.

Majority Leader Malcolm A. Needler, R-North Tonawanda, asked Murphy, "You think the ground hog saw his shadow so the six weeks of hiring freeze will be over?"

"I didn't know there was a hiring freeze until tonight," Murphy said.

County Manager Gregory D. Lewis said, "The hiring freeze is intended to be close scrutiny. It sets the bar higher for filling the position. It's difficult, but it's not impossible."

"A discretionary hiring freeze, it's fair to say," commented Legislator Jason J. Murgia, D-Niagara Falls.

With contributions from Scott Scanlon and Thomas J. Prohaska of the News Niagara Bureau.

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