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LaSalle body raps casino cash plan Censures allotment by Pataki to agency

A LaSalle residents group voted Tuesday to "censure" Gov. George E. Pataki for his proposed plan to send three years of local casino revenue to USA Niagara Development Corp. to be disbursed.

At a meeting at Prince of Peace School, LaSalle PRIDE, a recently incorporated group, and several dozen residents also demanded that $695,000 of local casino revenue be spent on trees, streets and other quality of life projects in their neighborhoods.

Two proposed plans in Albany on how to spend at least $25 million in casino revenue call for infrastructure improvements but don't spell out specific projects. Residents who attended the meeting said that although $25 million expected from the 2004 and 2005 share of local slots revenues hasn't been allocated yet, the city should have a plan in place for when that happens.

Currently, the money is part of an ongoing political stalemate: A November proposal by Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, D-Niagara Falls, and State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-North Tonawanda, would send the $25 million to the city to be disbursed. Pataki's proposed 2006 budget would direct revenues from 2004-06 to the state's development agency in the city for allocation.

Many residents on Tuesday said they plan to attend another rally at 5 p.m. Friday at John B. Daly Boulevard and Old Falls Street to protest the holding up of the casino revenue.

"All we're asking for is LaSalle's fair share to be set aside for infrastructure," said LaSalle PRIDE member Paul Beam. "[The governor] is sitting pretty up in Albany. He thinks he knows how to spend money better than Niagara Falls does."

Residents said streets and sidewalks are two of the most important quality-of-life issues and they want the city to set aside $375,000 of casino revenue to fix more in LaSalle. LaSalle PRIDE also called for casino revenue to be used to match a 5-year-old $125,000 state grant for Jayne Park the city may soon lose.

Although the governor's plan for spending the casino revenue would focus on downtown tourism and development projects, about $3.5 million would be directed to the city for infrastructure and debt service. The DelMonte-Maziarz plan would put about $1 million toward streets over two years, and the city has already included in its 2006 adopted budget the use of more than$1 million for debt payments.

The LaSalle section of the city is not eligible for Community Development Block Grant funds for street and sidewalk improvements so it was always understood that local casino revenue would fill that gap, said City Council Chairman Charles Walker at the meeting.

Residents didn't appear too happy with promises at the rally, though, and some of their complaints may have been heeded. City Tourism Development Manager Kevin Ormsby told the crowd that $20,000 set aside in 2003 casino revenues for a Cayuga Creek cleanup may finally be used.

While the city put out a public bid for the job last year and even chose a company, the work was never done. Ormsby said he didn't know what happened to that company but promised LaSalle residents that the job would be bid again on April 3.

e-mail: gnorheim@buffnews.com

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