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County Executive Gorski is asking the County Legislature to tap the contingency fund -- the reservoir of politicians' pet projects -- for $200,000 to help finance part of opening day costs for the new Clarence library.

The county will pay 25 percent of start-up, with the rest raised by local people.

Just a few weeks ago, the County Legislature gave North Collins $12,500 to help furnish its new library, replacing quarters in a very old building.

Why the big difference as two of the County Library system's 53 units move firmly into the future? Both are in outer ring suburbs, Clarence growing rapidly and North Collins retaining the rural atmosphere that draws residents to the country in the first place.

The library boards both submitted requests for start-up and operating help to the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library Board. The board, operating independently, is guaranteed a percentage of county tax but clears its budget requests through the county budget department.

Kenneth H. Stone, chief financial officer of the county library, said the library board recommended the level of help each library requested.

Population and community support help decide what a library can raise at the grass-roots level and ask from the county as a whole, he said.

The new North Collins library at 5,000 square feet is five times larger than the old, but much smaller than the Clarence Library, at 16,900 square ft.

The North Collins building is expected to cost about $500,000 compared with $3 million-plus for Clarence. The Clarence Library is expected to add 17 cents per thousand dollars to the town tax for 20 years.

"The Clarence library estimate of opening day costs was $800,000," said Stone. "It is much larger than North Collins and has a larger population base to serve. If you are looking at a library space three times as large, you are going to have higher costs."

The library shows an estimated population base for Clarence, based on 1996 figures, of 22,500, about six times the population of North Collins. "The two projects are on a similar track," said Stone. "North Collins will be opening within a month."

The people who consider themselves friends of a cultural institution, raising money or supporting requests, are another variable.

The municipality pays for a new building and 80 percent of the cost of the new library and electronic materials and furnishings needed to open.

A donation of shelving pared opening day costs in North Collins.

County Executive Gorski, in submitting his request for the $200,000 for Clarence, told the Legislature that the Republican who represents the area, Legislator Michael Ranzenhofer, is in support.

"The target date for completion of the new library is the latter half of 2000," Gorski said. "Early identification of these funds will permit the Clarence library staff to begin ordering materials, which often have a long lead time."

The request will go to the Cultural Affairs Committee, headed by Legislator Lynn Marinelli, D-Town of Tonawanda, who urges the legislators to think ahead into the next century. She notes:

The County Legislature is at the end of the decision-making process after approvals have moved from towns or villages to the library board to the county administration.

Funding for new libraries is a concern, and a community of experienced movers and shakers starts with an advantage.

Left-behind city and inner-ring suburbs pick up part of the costs through taxes to provide needed new technology and furnishings as people move farther out, she said.

Expanding outer ring suburbs need services that they seek, but there also has to be planning for people with less money in the older inner neighborhoods and suburbs, Ms. Marinelli said.

"The community needs to start thinking about this and discussing this," she said. "Does everybody get the same thing? Some have very active friends of the library that do fund-raising. Sometimes you are at the mercy of those who want to give that kind of service. Others may not have as active community arms. Looking to the future, we may have to reconcile that sort of thing."

Libraries mean a lot to the people who look to legislators for help, she said.

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