State news in brief

Cops: Teacher takes rifle from student

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Authorities say quick actions by a teacher averted a potential shooting at a northern New York high school where a 15-year-old student had a rifle concealed in a case wrapped in a blanket.

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office says police were called to Indian River High School in the town of Philadelphia, about 140 miles northwest of Albany, shortly before 1 p.m. Wednesday for a report of a student with a rifle.

Deputies say the teen sneaked the weapon into school and began opening the case containing the rifle at the end of a class. Officials say a teacher noticed and immediately secured the weapon.

Police seize 477 bags of heroin

POUGHKEEPSIE (AP) -- Police say they've seized 477 bags of heroin during a bust conducted in one of a growing number of upstate New York counties where authorities blame the drug for an increase in fatal and non-fatal overdoses.

The Poughkeepsie Journal reports ( ) that a drug task force in Dutchess County says three men were arrested Wednesday morning for selling heroin from their home in the city of Poughkeepsie.

Police say they also seized cocaine, cash and a loaded .357-caliber handgun that was reported stolen from North Carolina.

A rash of heroin overdoses prompted Dutchess County officials last month to issue a statement calling called heroin use a "rapidly escalating problem."

Buffalo diocese to close 10 schools

BUFFALO (AP) -- The Diocese of Buffalo says it will close 10 suburban elementary schools as part of the church's restructuring plan aimed at boosting enrollment at its other Catholic schools.

Bishop Richard Malone announced Wednesday that all Catholic elementary schools in the city of Buffalo will remain open, while 10 elementary schools outside the city will close in June. He says the move will allow the diocese to strengthen its 42 other Catholic elementary schools.

The schools being closed are in Elma, West Seneca, Lancaster, Orchard Park, the city of Tonawanda, Gowanda, Amherst and Hamburg. The closings affect more than 1,150 students and nearly 200 teachers and staff.

2 flu-related deaths confirmed

SYRACUSE (AP) -- Health officials say two central New York residents have died of complications from the flu strain that's hitting young and middle-aged adults hard this year.

Onondaga County Health Commissioner Cynthia Morrow tells local media outlets the two people who died within the past two weeks had H1N1, the main flu strain circulating this year. She said both were middle-aged adults with underlying health conditions that made them more vulnerable.

Morrow advised people who haven't gotten their flu vaccinations to do so. The H1N1 strain caused an influenza pandemic in 2009. This year's vaccine protects against it.

Woman guilty of stealing from employer

BUFFALO (AP) -- A former payroll coordinator admits she stole half a million dollars from her employer.

The U.S. attorney's office in Buffalo says 58-year-old Linda Rakonczay of Middleport pleaded guilty Wednesday to wire fraud and filing false tax returns.

Prosecutors say that while she worked for Orleans Community Health in Medina from 2001 to 2012, Rakonczay electronically transferred money to her personal bank account and failed to report the income to the Internal Revenue Service.

She faces up to 20 years in prison.

State awards $67M for path projects

ALBANY (AP) -- The state is providing $67 million in funding for 63 bicycle, pedestrian and multi-use pathway projects.

The projects include the addition of accessible sidewalks, improved pedestrian access to public transportation, new bicycle and pedestrian facilities and conversion of abandoned railroad corridors for trail use.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the projects will provide new tourism and recreational opportunities for New Yorkers and visitors.

The money comes from the Federal Highway Administration and is administered by the state Transportation Department. The grants cover 80 percent of the cost of each project.