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Lost treasures of Lake Ontario?

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During the warmer months, my family and I are frequent beachcombers on the shores of Lake Ontario. Occasionally we'll walk away from the shore with some smooth worn glass and a nice pebble or two, but the lake holds real intrigue for some and genuine treasure for others.

            The bottom of Lake Ontario holds at least 174 wrecked vessels, including two from the War of 1812 --- The Scourge and The Hamilton. While it's true that less decomposition occurs in the cold fresh water of the Great Lakes than in the briny deep of the oceans, the wreckage usually resembles a trashed lumberyard more than a ship. Still, local divers can find the site of the St. Peter, the wreck closest to Rochester, sitting 100 feet down somewhere near Pultneyville. It's a challenging dive even for the experienced diver.

            Joe Plano Jr., master diver and proprietor of the Aquatic Center of Rochester (www.aquaticcenterrochester.com), says technology has taken some of the work and risk out of looking for wrecks or whatever else may lie at the lake's bottom. "Now I can use my ROV (remote operated vehicle) and if I see sand, sand, sand then a big pile of zebra mussels, I know I might have something there."

            There are more than a few legends of lost gold in Lake Ontario. Here's one we came across in a collection called "Short Stories of Lost Treasure in the Adirondacks." (It has no author, of course.)

            "The Salmon River [connected to the east end of Lake Ontario] in Central New York has much scenic beauty and a great variety of fish.... In the year 1716 the only inhabitants of the area were Native Americans and a few trappers and traders. Marc Toussaint was one such man. Born in Montreal, he was one of a family of trappers and loggers who were part Mic-Mac, or perhaps Oneida Indian. He was not averse to stealing from the traps of others, and since this crime was difficult to detect, he always got away. Toussaint was getting rich fast. He soon amassed a small fortune that equaled $6,000,000 by present day measures. He even had a secret forge and molding operation at which he remolded his bullion into blocks he could carry and manage best. In all, his total in gold bars was 30."

            Legend had it that as Toussaint was headed toward Montreal, taking with him half his booty. He approached a section of the Salmon River known as "the Black Hole" and was pulled under, never to be seen again.

            The keen observer might think this would clearly be a great cover story for a clean getaway to Canada. But it makes us want to grab our metal detectors and run around the woods of Pulaski.

--- Dave Cross

Three views of health

Everybody's talking about how profitable it is to be a top executive at health insurer Excellus (The Lifetime Healthcare Companies). Take former president/CEO Howard Berman, who according to the Democrat and Chronicle pulled down $1.6 million last year. Three other uppermost execs made over $1 million each; another made just under a million.

            Company spokesperson Jim Redmond says the amounts are justified. "We pay salaries that are competitive" with comparable positions at companies in the same business, he says. Salaries are gauged on individual merit, as well, he says. Company leaders, he says, have kept premium hikes lower than they might have been. Also, he says, "we're the sixth largest employer" in the area. And because of this, he says, the company makes a beneficial impact on the regional economy.

            For another perspective, we reached leaders of the Rochester Interfaith Health Care Coalition as they met at St. Joseph's Neighborhood Center, which provides health services to low-income people in need. Coalition members include the Greater Rochester Community of Churches, the Sisters of St. Joseph, Metro Justice, and other groups. Participants at the meeting gave us their quick official reaction to the pay issue: "We call into question why Excellus has five executives [with such] salaries when there are 45,000-50,000 uninsured people in Monroe County. Excellus must stop raising premiums and ensure coverage for our citizens."

            The third perspective is in the data: Excellus/Lifetime boasts administrative overhead of around 10 percent. (Purely for-profit health insurers often come in at twice that rate, Redmond points out.) Traditional fee-for-service Medicare spends two to three percent on administration.

RCB's new home

Bouncing back from its tragic loss of creator Timothy Draper, Rochester City Ballet took a major step forward this week, moving into its new home at 1326 University Avenue.

            New artistic director Jamey Leverett,Draper's chief colleague and protégé, continues his work. The connection with Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra that Draper forged continues with Nutcracker performances at Eastman Theatre, and an additional event in 2005.

            Draper made these plans, but was still struggling to find his prestigious school and company a home. Leverett and the RCB board found this impressive building with "16,000 square feet of rehearsal, dressing room, costume storage, and office space." It also should be available to other artists for rehearsals and performances.

            Now the ballet is busy with the Draper school's classes and RCB's rehearsals for spring concerts April 3 and 4 at the Jewish Community Center and May 15 at Canandaigua Academy. Those include Draper and Leverett's ballet, The Firebird,and Leverett's new tribute to Tim Draper, Pedestal.

--- Herbert M. Simpson

It's your money back

The New York State Consumer Protection Board has a real deal for you.

            According to a CPB announcement, Rochester Gas and Electric will be giving $110 million in refunds (over the next few years) to its electric customers. Electricity delivery rates will be frozen through 2008, as well. CPB Chair Teresa Santiago said the average residential customer will get around $65 back very soon, with more to come later. The refunds, says the CPB, will come from RG&E's sale of the Ginna nuclear plant. The net proceeds from this sale "represent the investment of RG&E's customers," the CPB says. (RG&E will be allowed to boost some add-on charges, though, so the average user's bill might go up slightly.)

            Meanwhile, the state Public Service Commission is holding two meetings here this week for utility customers to comment on RG&E's "multi-year plans." It may seem odd to comment or attend a meeting on a deal already brokered. But, says the PSC, it's still possible the deal could be rejected. So state regulators are asking the public to plug in.

            The local public-comment hearings will be held Thursday, March 18, 2 p.m., Monroe County Office Building (Legislative Chamber), 39 West Main Street; and the same day, 7 p.m., East High School (Forum Room), 1801 East Main Street.

            Comments also can be filed by phone (toll-free Opinion Line, 1-800-335-2120) and via the internet, at www.AskPSC.com. More information is available at www.rge.com. And hard copies of the relevant documents are viewable at the Rochester Central Library, 115 South Avenue, and at public libraries in the town of Ontario and the city of Canandaigua.

Funky junk for unk

Rock ’n’ roll is helping out the man who helped it out in Rochester for so many years. WCMF’s late-night cat, the late Unkle Roger McCall, was slain in late December, leaving a huge void in the music community and in his family.

Longtime McCall pal and Sphere Sound Records bigwig Scott Van Dusen has rallied some big national acts to raise money for the wife and son Rog left behind through a celebrity-fueled auction.

Cheap Trick’s Tom Petersson, The Rolling Stones’ Darryl Jones, Todd Rundgren and Kasim Sulton of Utopia, as well as other artists and manufacturers have all donated some pretty sweet swag that Van Dusen hopes will raise “thousands” for the family.

The “Auctions For Unk” is happening at www.spheresound.com. Fifty percent of the net proceeds will go to McCall’s family.

More on the March

There's still time to get on the bus for the April 25 March for Women's Lives in Washington, DC. Hundreds of people from the Rochester area will join in.

            The march is to support reproductive freedom, which, organizers say, faces a greater-than-ever-before threat in this country.

            It's sponsored by the Feminist Majority, the National Organization for Women, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Planned Parenthood.

            Ten buses have been reserved for the trip. Regular ticket prices are $60, but a sliding scale is available. Students pay $20.

            To register or for more information, call Planned Parenthood at 546-2771 x242 or visit www.pprsr.org. You can register with a credit care online.

            Another good site is www.rochesternow.org. There you'll find more information on the march, including answers to frequently asked questions.

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