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As Niagara Falls / Tales of the strange but true

Mayoral race is no lock

Sitting at the dais in Niagara Falls City Council chambers, Assemblyman Robin L. Schimminger wanted to pass along a small gift to State Sen. George D. Maziarz.

A few minutes before the start of a public hearing on low-cost power last week, the Kenmore Democrat walked over to the Newfane Republican. In Schimminger's hand was a "Larry Soos for Mayor" keychain, part of the re-election campaign of the sitting Democratic mayor of North Tonawanda.

"He's got a million of these," Schimminger said of Soos, making the offer.

Maziarz quickly replied, "He's going to need a million."

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Beneath the lines

Some drivers have been scratching their heads upon encountering a rare sight in Niagara Falls.

Stripes, the kind that separate two lanes of traffic, began appearing again on local streets this summer.

After years of driving on blank streets, some city residents were startled and a bit puzzled by the new development.

Councilman Robert Anderson Jr. reported getting an earful from residents after a new stripe appeared on Buffalo Avenue, generally agreed to be one of the worst streets in the city.

"What's the purpose of the yellow stripes without fixing the roads first?" Anderson asked.

The answer: safety.

Public Works Director David Kinney said some drivers were complaining that they couldn't determine where the turning lane on Buffalo Avenue was located.

It seems the city stopped painting streets a few years back because the machine they had no longer met proper regulations for paint. The city purchased a new machine this year.

"You have to have the proper paint," Kinney said. "You can't just go to Valu and buy any old paint."

And, no, the stripes do not go around the potholes.

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Changing distractions

The North Tonawanda Common Council took another step toward enacting a ban on text messaging while driving.

During an informal discussion on the topic before last week's work session, First Ward Alderman Dennis M. Pasiak recounted an instance of distracted driving from years ago.

Pasiak said he had a friend, long before cell phones, who used to try to solve a Rubik's Cube while behind the wheel.

"Back when those were all the rage," joked City Clerk-Treasurer Robert G. Ortt.

A search of the city's law books revealed nothing banning puzzle-solving while driving.

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Color coordination

The beige paint that covered up the 1955 green exterior panels of the newer wing of the Niagara County Courthouse was scraped off several days ago.

Robin DeVoe, deputy public works commissioner for buildings and grounds, said the paint, applied in 2003, was starting to peel, especially on the Niagara Street side of the building.

This gives an opportunity for a change in the paint color, which was officially called camel. "People didn't like my color scheme the last time," DeVoe said.

The new choice is gray, in an effort to match the window frames on the older wing of the courthouse.

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Multiple talents

Calvin L. Williams of Lockport has been in the Niagara County Jail since his arrest for a May 6 burglary in that city, but the 42-year-old hasn't been wasting his time while behind bars.

Apparently, he's been put to work.

"I've repainted practically the entire Niagara County Jail, first and second floors," Williams told Judge Matthew J. Murphy III Sept. 22. The day before his court appearance, "I started stripping the floors."

Assistant Public Defender Michael E. Benedict confirmed Williams' account of interior work at the jail.

None of this, however, kept Murphy from sentencing the second-time felon to 2 1/2 to five years in state prison for burglary. Perhaps the state prison system will check to see which of its facilities needs painting before assigning Williams a cell.

With contributions from News Niagara Reporters Aaron Besecker, Denise Jewell Gee and Thomas J. Prohaska.

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