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GORSKI WON'T RUSH ORCHESTRA BAILOUT DECISION

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra may have to wait until after Christmas to find out if County Executive Gorski is in the mood to play Santa Claus.

Gorski says he has made no decision on a $150,000 bailout for the money-strapped Philharmonic before the end of the year and has set no deadline for himself to make a decision.

"We're nowhere on the (Philharmonic) right now," Gorski said. "It's just not good policy to contemplate giving them extra money when we don't have the final word on what the state's going to do to us."

For the moment, the orchestra's financial problems are playing second fiddle to the county's potential loss of more than $3 million in state aid this year and more than $9 million in the coming year.

The Philharmonic's request also has been overshadowed by the nearly completed county budget process. Gorski and the County Legislature have been too busy making multimillion-dollar decisions to take up the orchestra's situation.

The Philharmonic may have only itself to blame for letting its request getting lost in the shuffle, said Legislature Majority Leader Leonard R. Lenihan, D-Town of Tonawanda.

"I think they missed their best window of opportunity," Lenihan said. "They didn't seize the moment, and now the outcome is uncertain."

For a brief time in early November both Gorski and lawmakers had focused on the orchestra's financial problems, said Lenihan, who has championed the Philharmonic's cause among the Legislature's 11 Democrats.

"We stood ready to help them, but they couldn't get their act together, and now I'd say they have a problem," he added.

More than three months has elapsed since plans for emergency county aid to the orchestra were floated. A flurry of meetings, telephone conversations and demonstrations of support for the orchestra built to a crescendo while the stage at Kleinhans Music Hall remained empty, waiting for a breakthrough in the fiscal crisis.

With great fanfare, the orchestra and musicians announced Nov. 10 they had reached an agreement to trim costs, and all the other pieces of the orchestra's complicated financial puzzle appeared to have fallen into place. But instead of racing to Gorski and the Legislature with the details that were demanded before release of emergency aid, Philharmonic officials took several days to deliver the information.

When the orchestra management announced it had come to terms with musicians and the season would open the following weekend, Lenihan and other legislators assumed they would have what they needed to approve a bailout at the Legislature's Nov. 15 session.

But when the documentation wasn't there, another crisis arose.

"While we were waiting for details, the state budget fell apart, and we had to move on," Lenihan said. "They missed a great opportunity."

Edwin Wolf, the Philharmonic's executive director, said he believes the orchestra has done all it can to keep its case in front of Gorski and the lawmakers. He does not agree with the assessment the Philharmonic dragged its heels.

"We forwarded the information to the county executive in a timely fashion," Wolf said. "We gave him the information he said he needed."

As for being put on the back burner, Wolf said he understands and agrees that state and county budget issues should take precedence.

"We realize these issues should come first," he said. "But just because we haven't been deluging them (Legislature and Gorski) with calls for action on the (Philharmonic) doesn't mean our needs have gone away."

The orchestra still is counting on every penny the county has placed in its 1991 budget -- $722,123 in regular aid and $150,000 in extraordinary aid, as well as an additional $150,000 yet this year -- Wolf said.

Wolf said he remains optimistic Gorski will agree to the extra funds before the end of the month.

Gorski, himself, is leaving the door open.

"I want to be helpful and supportive, but I have to wait," Gorski said.

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