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>County's support sought for toll barriers' removal

The Erie County Legislature was urged Monday to put its weight behind a lawsuit seeking the removal of the Breckenridge and Ogden toll barriers on the Niagara Thruway.

"I would hope the Erie County Legislature would join in this action to bring about some justice and fairness to Western New York," said downtown landlord Carl P. Paladino, who is suing the Thruway Authority because, he says, the two toll barriers frustrate motorists trying to reach downtown Buffalo.

County Executive Joel A. Giambra has also joined in the lawsuit, agreeing to spend up to $35,000 from the county Law Department's budget to help pay Paladino's lawyer, Michael Powers.

Powers has unearthed the long-forgotten "Niagara Toll Removal Act," which in 1968 mandated that toll barriers on the Niagara Thruway be torn down once the federal government reimbursed New York for Thruway construction costs. Powers says the state received aid for Thruway construction in 1996.

The County Legislature is considering a statement urging the Thruway Authority to remove the toll barriers on the Niagara Thruway because they burden commuters en route to work.

"This is the time to fight the fight. This isn't the time to back off," County Clerk David J. Swarts, a longtime critic of Thruway tolls, told the Legislature's Economic Development Committee on Monday as its members considered a statement to send to the Thruway Authority.


>Drainage Committee urged to study problems

Newstead officials have recommended that members of the town Drainage Committee review some problems in the Crittenden and Stage Road area.

Earlier this month, a resident in that neighborhood complained that when the property behind him was sold and subdivided and houses were built, many sand filter systems were installed that sent water to the road ditch and caused more pooling of water. The property owner now has a lagoon 440 feet down Stage Road with 6-12 inches of water in it.
Several years ago, Newstead and the Village of Akron, which share several municipal services, began looking at ways to alleviate sewer problems and improve drainage in the area. Town and village officials approved the formation of a committee to study drainage maps and top priority areas.


>New theater, expansion of lab receive funding

Hilbert College has received $360,000 from the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation toward a new theater on campus and to expand the college's communication studies laboratory.

The grant will provide $180,000 toward construction costs and theater equipment -- including lighting equipment and stage sound -- for Hilbert's 430-seat William E. Swan Auditorium, which is expected to be finished in time for the start of fall classes.

Work began last fall on the one-story facility, as part of a $6 million academic-auditorium complex.

The rest of the grant will provide funding for Hilbert's Center for Creative Media, which will move from its current location in the college's Campus Center to expanded space in Paczesny Hall.

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