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Farewell To A Dear Friend

Joel Thomas' official title at the Erie County SPCA was 'Wildlife Administrator and Veterinary Technician', a long title to be sure. But as titles so often do, it fails to even come close to describing Joel as a person.

He was a true renaissance man. Musician, environmentalist, author, husband and father. It seemed to those who knew him, Joel could do it all. And although he left us at far too early an age, his spirit will live on with the many people whose lives he touched.

Gina Browning was a close friend who worked with Joel for almost 20 years at the Erie County SPCA.

"He had a wonderful church family, his daughter, his wife, his son, he had an amazing family life too," says Browning. "Then you look at professionally here at the SPCA, all that he did. It wasn't just a job, all that he did to impact the lives of people, and especially the lives of wildlife here."

Investigative Post: Outer Harbor and Stadium Lease

Here at 2 On Your Side, we recently announced our proud partnership with the Investigative Post, a non-profit investigative reporting center right here in Western New York.

It's run by former Buffalo News investigative reporter Jim Heaney. 

Heaney stopped by the Information Center to discuss the latest on plans for the Outer Harbor and negotiations with the Bills stadium lease.

Inmate Accused of Trying to Hire Hit Man

BUFFALO, NY - An inmate at the Orleans County Correctional Facility is accused of trying to hire a hit man to kill his victim.

Investigators say Brendon Berndt, 26, allegedly agreed to pay an undercover New York State Police investigator $10,000 to kill the victim of his crime.

Berndt has been charged with conspiracy.  If convicted, he faces a maximum prison sentence of 12-1/2 to 25 years behind bars.

Recent Deep Freeze Destroys WNY Apple Crops

Albion, NY - The weather is getting warmer now, but the freezing temperatures that passed through Western New York last month have left local apple farmers fearing they will be left in the cold.

David Kast owns a 250-acre apple farm in Albion, and is predicting that he will only see about half of the crop he normally does this year, because of the blossoms that were destroyed.

Kast told 2 On Your Side he grows 20 different types of apples on his farm. Right now he's counting on the bees to help pollinate many of these buds that survived the deep freeze when temperatures dropped into the mid-20's.

Kast said, "I worry about it. Any grower worries about it, and you know it's mother nature. There's nothing we can do about it so we're fortunate that we have other crops, and we're concentrating our energy there, but we're still fully taking care of our orchards as we would any other year."

Olcott Beach Nominated for World Fishing Network's "Ultimate Fishing Town"

Olcott Beach Nominated for World Fishing Network's "Ultimate Fishing Town"

The World Fishing Network (WFN) has nominated Olcott Beach, N.Y., located on beautiful Lake Ontario, for its "Ultimate Fishing Town." Voting began on May 1 and will conclude on May 31.  

The town with the highest total votes will be named the winner of a $25,000 community donation. WFN will also produce a feature on the winner as the Ultimate Fishing Town.

You can vote for Olcott Beach, N.Y. by going to this link: http://www.worldfishingnetwork.com/uft/town/olcottbeach-ny

NY Lottery Responds to Welfare Fraud Questions

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The New York Lottery is responding to questions about oversight after a prize winner was accused of welfare fraud for not reporting his winnings as income.   

Anthony Palermo, who lives in Orleans County, won the "Win for Life" scratch off game more than a decade ago, guaranteeing him one thousand dollars a week, for life.

Prosecutors say Palermo applied for Medicaid and HEAP last fall, and broke the law when he never disclosed his lottery winnings and got more than four-thousand dollars in benefits.

We emailed the lottery to find out if they have a system in place to prevent fraud like the kind Palermo is accused of.  Their response is below.

I Love My Parks Day; A Chance To Give Back

You can say a lot about New York State, but one thing you can't say is that it is short on parks.

The Empire State has almost an embarrassment of riches when it comes to beautiful green space. From the Adirondacks to Letchworth, there are 178 State Parks across New York, with each one having its own unique features.

While the larger parks are often magnificent in their grandeur, it is often the smaller ones that are most fascinating, and all the more satisfying because you feel as if you've just uncovered a hidden treasure. A case in point is Knox Farm State Park, a 600 acre gem nestled gently in the hills of East Aurora.

Seymour Knox IV is the President of Friends Of Knox Farm State Park. "It's a wonderful place to be. It's very pastoral, it's very, sort of healing...you're out in nature. It has beautiful vistas, there's a lot of trails you can walk, and there's a lot of wildlife out here."