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As Niagara Falls

Big wet kiss

Julie, Squirt, Diamond and Jester at the Aquarium of Niagara have dates booked up for Valentine's Day, but they'll still pucker up the rest of the weekend -- for a fee.

The aquarium is offering whisker-filled kisses, hugs and photographs with the California sea lions for a reduced rate of $60 for the holiday. Couples can experience the sea lion "encounter" for $100.

The Niagara Falls attraction is promoting the package as a perfect gift for your valentine.

Johanna Black, a marine mammal trainer, said the sea lions are already fully booked Saturday. But there are still limited spaces available Friday and Sunday.

So what's a sea lion kiss like?

"They don't lick like dogs," Black said. "It's kind of like if your dog pressed its lips against your cheek."

Call 285-3575, Ext.214, to make arrangements.

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Betsch Chronicles

The appearance of former Lockport Mayor Raymond C. Betsch, 85, at a Common Council meeting last week was a trip down memory lane for many City Hall veterans.

"He was jogging before jogging was cool," City Clerk Richard P. Mullaney recalled.

Others recalled Betsch's past ventures into icy Lake Ontario during the Olcott Polar Bear swim.

Alderman Joseph C. Kibler remembered how Betsch, as mayor, was invited to the Lockport Midget Baseball League's annual banquet.

"He showed up in a baseball uniform and he read 'Casey at the Bat' to 300 kids," Kibler said.

One of our favorite Betsch stories pertains to the night someone gave him an oversized ceramic gavel as a gift before a Council meeting. The head of the gavel must have been a foot long and eight inches in diameter, and one end unscrewed so things could be stored inside.

During the meeting, the late John T. Whitmore, the 3rd Ward alderman, got under Betsch's skin somehow. Shouting, "Alderman Whitmore, you are out of order!" Betsch grabbed the ceramic gavel instead of the regular wooden one and smashed it down on his desk, shattering the gavel into shards of pottery.

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Flat gone to pot

A Niagara Falls landlord was going to get his eviction one way or another.

He called police to an apartment on Grand Avenue last Monday to complain that his tenant wasn't paying the rent or electric bill. Police said it was a civil matter and they couldn't get involved.

The cops had a quick change of heart when the landlord screamed at them, "Well then I want her pot plants out of here."

Suddenly, police were ready to roll.

They found Mary Elana Anderson-Sanchez, 19, growing three pot plants in her closet under a light.

"Go ahead and arrest me," she told police. "I only grow the best, but I don't smoke it."

Turns out in this case the criminal charge for having the plants, valued at $50, is the same whether you smoke it or grow it. She was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana.

Police took her pot plants out of there -- but it will still be up to a civil court to remove Anderson-Sanchez.

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Project slides through

The Lockport Common Council last week declared the proposed new Lockport Ice Arena was a permitted special use under the city planning and zoning code.

The move helped clear the way for the purchase of the former Jubilee supermarket on Chestnut Street for conversion into a rink.

Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano, a hockey dad, is one of the members of the Ice Arena board that sought the special-use designation.

"John," Council President John Lombardi III asked, "you're not trying to skate around anything, are you?"

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

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