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REGIONAL PLANNERS CITE EFFORT TO OFFSET CUTS

The Erie and Niagara Counties Regional Planning Board, which had been marked for virtual extinction in the Erie County budget, has survived at least temporarily and has earned a relatively clean bill of health in a state audit.

Executive Director David J. Evans said Tuesday that the two-county planning board had "entered an aggressive marketing and sales program" to close the gap that was created when the Gorski administration cut its appropriation by 55 percent in this year's budget.

Evans said the board had contracted with numerous local governments, some of them outside the two county area, to prepare data for the 1990 census and to work on applications for state and federal grants.

The board also has developed computerized maps which can help investors to decide where to locate their businesses or homes, and it expects to sell the map information to various public and private users at a profit.

Evans described the board's fund-raising efforts in response to an audit made public by State Comptroller Edward V. Regan. The audit said it would be "very difficult for the planning board to function" at its planned level in view of the 1989 budget cut.

Erie County cut its share of the planning board's budget from about $213,000 to $96,000. Under a cost-sharing formula, Niagara County thereupon reduced its share from $68,000 to $30,000.

If the staff had been unable to come up with money from other sources, board members feared that the agency would be shut down on April 30. The board consists of 11 members from Erie County and 10 from Niagara County.

Its main mission is to review every project that is submitted for a grant to make sure that it does not conflict with regional plans. It also is the only agency that can obtain the federal Clean Water grants that Buffalo and other communities have counted on for the multimillion-dollar Ellicott Creek and Buffalo River restoration projects, according to Amherst Supervisor Jack Sharpe, former chairman of the board.

As the only two-county planning agency in the state, it has developed a 22-year relationship between Erie and Niagara Counties.

Besides commenting on the budget cut, the state audit suggested some minor bookkeeping changes and Evans said all of the suggestions had been implemented or would be implemented soon. Among them was the renegotiation of a computer rental and maintenance contract that resulted in a saving of several thousand dollars, Evans said.

The regional planning board is headquartered at 3101 Sheridan Drive, Amherst.

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