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The offbeat side of the news

Biking through the snow

Even a fanatical biking family has limits when living in Buffalo.

The six members of the Bisker-Patterson family reached theirs after slogging through last winter on cargo bikes piloted by Stacy Bisker, a stay-at-home mom, and her husband, Brent Patterson, an assistant professor of digital media at SUNY Buffalo State. The family members moved to the city in August 2013 from West Virginia, where they were well-known biking advocates and Bisker started a blog, They bought a minivan in May. That was long before Western New Yorkers weathered 109 inches – or lots more – of snow this winter, a record cold February and 68 days in a row of snow cover as the season, prayerfully, nears a close.

“We estimated we drive fewer than 20 miles a week when we don’t take a trip to somewhere like Rochester, to see friends, or to see my family in Ohio,” Bisker said.

The family has moved into a new home that’s closer to the city transit system and the schools the four children attend, but Patterson still commuted to and from work by cargo bike all but about 10 days this winter. Those days, he took the bus or hitched a ride from colleagues.

“I think we are finding a good balance and still finding a lot of pleasure in winter,” Bisker said. “My favorite activity is shoveling – and reporting snow removal/public access issues to 311.”

Changing the subject

Tuesday’s Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School Board meeting was standing-room-only, as teachers and parents gathered to hear the board debate radical proposals aimed at boycotting teacher evaluations and standardized testing in the district.

Then it was the audience’s turn. Speaker after speaker riled up the crowd as they expressed support for the proposals while blasting Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s education reform agenda.

So when John Del Gatto stepped up to the mic, he had a rapt audience giving him its undivided attention.

“Did I come on the wrong night because this has nothing to do with what you guys are doing,” Del Gatto said as the room erupted in laughter.

“But I’m with ya!” he added and the laughter turned to applause.

Del Gatto, a Vietnam War veteran, was there to urge the board to adopt a property tax exemption for veterans who served in wartime and asked the board to schedule a public hearing on the issue.

Then, he played to his audience.

“I want to thank all of you guys,” he said. “It’s so wonderful to see you come out and defend our kids.”

Call me if you can

Try calling Depew village trustees at their Village Hall offices and you’ll hear some interesting options on the voicemail recording.

You can leave messages for Trustee Linda Hammer, as well as Trustees Juliano Pecora and Michael Nolder – both of whom are running for re-election on Wednesday. Then the options get weird.

For instance, you can leave a voicemail message for Trustee Jesse Nikonowicz, even though he is no longer on the Village Board after his term as a trustee ended in 2013. Nikonowicz is now running against incumbent Mayor Steven Hoffman.

A seemingly essential option that you’re not given is to leave a voicemail for current Trustee Bob Kucewicz, who formerly served as mayor, but is currently the lone opposition to Hoffman, who leads the board majority. Kucewicz was caught unaware last week when he was informed that he wasn’t part of the village voicemail queue.

“No wonder I don’t get any calls,” he said, noting that, in two years, he has received only one call on his village office line.

“I wasn’t aware my name didn’t come up in the queue,” Kucewicz said. “It’s definitely funny, but it also explains something to me.”

All this time, Kucewicz said, he has been responding only to calls that were made to his personal phone.

Off Main Street is written by Harold McNeil, with contributions by Scott Scanlon, Joseph Popiolkowski and Karen Robinson. email: