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$2.4 MILLION IN BONDS OK'D TO REPLACE HIGHWAY EQUIPMENT

Amherst Town Board members Monday approved a $2.4 million bond issue that will help highway officials replace everything from old chain saws to a worn-out street sweeper, Highway Superintendent Robert Anderson said.

The bond financing will help make up for two years of budget cutting that left his department struggling to maintain some trucks that were built in the early 1980s, according to Anderson.

"As stuff is breaking down now, I'm parking it," he said after the board's vote. "We're surrendering 20-year-old trucks with cracked frames and front ends falling off."

Anderson said the equipment will let his department continue offering services such as sweeping streets and cleaning out drainage ditches.

"For the last two years, I put in the budget more than $1 million a year, and it got cut to zero," he said.

Much of the equipment will go to highway operations, but the bond issue will also buy sign and signal equipment, and maintainence equipment for parks, trees and drainage ditches.

In other action, board members heard a proposal from yet another company that wants to set up shop in the Pepsi Center's fitness facility. John Opfer of Pro Formance Sports has asked the town to lease the fitness facility for $1,725 a month for five years so he can operate a sports training business.

Two previous fitness center operators have failed to thrive at the Pepsi Center, however, leaving unpaid rents totaling more than $40,000. And the Buffalo Athletic Club pulled out about three years ago, saying the 5,000-square-foot facility is too small for its purposes.

Council Member Shelly Schratz, who has criticized the town's management of the fitness center, said she thinks that it is time to change course.

"I think there are other things we need to think about. The town should look for other things to go into this space," she said.

Opfer's proposal also calls for the town to forgive about $12,000 in back rent owed by Edward Kraus, the current fitness center tenant, and to release Kraus from all financial responsibility, "past and future."

But Council Member Jane S. Woodward pointed out that the town has already "been burned a couple of times."

"I can see how this all benefits Ed Kraus, and you may be the best businessman in the world," she told Opfer, adding: "I just don't see what good it does us."

Opfer, who told board members that he has worked as a strength and conditioning coach for professional and college athletes, said he is prepared to invest $70,000 to improve the fitness center if his proposal is accepted.

Board members referred the matter to Town Attorney E. Thomas Jones and Assistant Recreation Director Eric W. Guzdek.

e-mail: tdolan@buffnews.com

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