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The county, city and judiciary broke ground for a new $34.5 million county courthouse Friday and long-feuding officials buried the hatchet.

They agreed that the county is making a large contribution to the redevelopment of Buffalo and to the orderly process of justice.

Mayor Masiello said the courthouse guarantees Buffalo will be a center of law and justice for decades.

Supreme Court Justice Vincent E. Doyle Jr., administrative judge of the 8th Judicial District, has said he would rather have a Taj Mahal, but will gladly accept the new building for Family Court and probation. Doyle's irony harked back to a quip by County Executive Gorski that the judiciary wanted a Taj Mahal.

County Legislature Chairman Charles M. Swanick, D-Kenmore, said the location at Pearl and Niagara streets is great although the preferred site was the parking lot of St. Louis Cathedral, next to County Hall.

"No one wanted to argue too much with the bishop," said Swanick, who thanked the other legislators for being willing to authorize bonding.

Officials surrounded a rectangular pile of gravel, the kind used to cover county roads, that was hauled in to substitute for earth in the groundbreaking.

The ceremony in a driving rain was held under a tent, with Harry Brand, who helped plan the event, clutching aluminum tent-supports to keep it from buckling. Brand, chief administrative assistant in the 8th Judicial District, was still fighting stormy weather on the day of his big success.

Gorski, who eventually committed to a $75 million construction and renovation project, said the county is "one of the significant developers in downtown Buffalo."

Family Court Judge Sharon Townsend and Doyle stressed the importance of a building where judges will make decisions that greatly affect the families and children who make up an exploding Family Court caseload.

"How we treat the children dictates what our future citizens will be, what they will respect and how they will obey the rules of society," Doyle said. "A courtroom should command respect and this courthouse will certainly do that. Once people respect the law, they obey the law willingly."

The courthouse will face Niagara Street between Franklin and Pearl streets, north of the Rath County Office Building. It will expand a county campus that includes Erie County Hall, the holding center, and two county buildings on West Eagle Street.

The move by Family Court and the Probation Department to the new structure in 2001 will open the way to a $43.7 million upgrading of court facilities in old Erie County Hall and other sites.

Construction is expected to create 500 jobs.

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