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NIAGARA NEWS BRIEFS

Warmer temperatures, rain boost chances of flooding

Western New York is in for a New Year's meltdown.

Temperatures are forecast to climb into the upper 40s today as a year-end rush of warm Southern air spreads over the region and peaks about 50 on Saturday before colder, more seasonable weather returns.

If the mild air doesn't dissolve the snow we have on the ground, then the rain will. A few showers are expected later today and up to half an inch of rain is predicted for Saturday. The National Weather Service has issued a hazardous weather alert for the possibility of ice jam flooding on Saturday in area creeks and streams.

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Virtuoso retains leadership of Legislature Democrats

LOCKPORT -- The four-member Democratic minority in the Niagara County Legislature will continue to be led in 2011 by Legislator Dennis F. Virtuoso of Niagara Falls.

Virtuoso reported Thursday that a party caucus re-elected him as the leader. Renae Kimble of Niagara Falls will be his backup, and Jason J. Cafarella of Niagara Falls will be second deputy minority leader. The Republican-led Legislature majority has a 15-4 edge over the Democrats.

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Ruling orders reimbursement for mental health services

The Appellate Division of State Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that the state Health Department must pay Niagara County $778,212 in Medicaid reimbursements for mental health services provided to past Medicaid clients.

The county has sued the state five times in the past three years, including three times in the past three months, to collect mental health Medicaid reimbursements. A $440,000 judgment was upheld on appeal in 2009, and the latest ruling confirmed a decision made Feb. 22 by State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. The three open cases seek a total of $252,185.

The appeals court slapped Kloch on the wrist for trying to bar the Health Department from using the terms of the 2005 Medicaid cap law in considering further reimbursements. All court rulings on the subject have said the cap law doesn't protect the state from having to pay for mental health Medicaid services, but the appellate panel said Kloch went too far in trying to pre-empt the state from trying that angle.

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New Year's Eve closings

This is how the following area offices and services will be affected Friday by New Year's Eve.

City Court .... Closed

County courts .... Closed

State courts .... Closed

Federal courts .... Closed

City offices ....Closed

County offices .... Closed

Cheektowaga auto bureau .... Open

State offices .... Closed

Federal offices .... Closed

Post Office .... Open/Some close at noon

Schools .... Closed

Banks .... Open

Most stores .... Open

Metro Bus, Rail .... Weekday schedule

City garbage .... Regular