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GIAMBRA PUSHES CASE TO REOPEN PARKS

County Executive Joel A. Giambra broke bread with legislative leaders Sunday in hopes of saving his plan for reopening county parks. Lawmakers described the get-together, a private meeting in Giambra's North Buffalo home, as productive enough to prompt talk of a special legislative session this week.

At stake is Giambra's proposal for reopening the parks next Sunday, a plan that collapsed last week over doubts about where $1 million in funding would come from.

"I think there's a will to do it, and sometimes that's half the battle," Majority Leader Lynn M. Marinelli, D-Town of Tonawanda, said of the parks' reopening.

The question is how to pay for it.

Marinelli, one of three legislators at Sunday's meeting, said no agreement was reached, but lawmakers did talk about the possibility of a special legislative session, maybe as early as Friday, to vote on the issue.

Lawmakers also talked with Giambra about his proposal for rehiring laid-off probation officers and County Clerk David Swarts' plan for reopening at least one of three closed auto bureaus.

"The consensus was we need to deal with these issues and the sooner the better," said Legislator Albert DeBenedetti, D-Buffalo.

Hosted by Giambra, the meeting included DeBenedetti, Marinelli, Legislature Chairman George A. Holt Jr., D-Buffalo, and Deputy County Executive Bruce Fisher.

They met just three days after legislators failed to act on Giambra's plan for using $1 million now set aside for renovations at Buffalo's All-High Stadium to hire 64 seasonal parks workers.

The plan, which Giambra continues to push, collapsed when an aide to Comptroller Nancy A. Naples informed lawmakers the All-High money was no longer available. Under Giambra's proposal, the All-High money would be replaced with funds from the county's shrinking tobacco settlement.

Marinelli said legislators have to decide who they think is right -- Giambra or Naples.

"There's a sense of urgency," she said, "but we also want to do it right. The last thing we want to do is reopen parks and down the road have to close them again."

Legislators also stopped short of acting last week on Giambra's plan for rehiring 10 probation officers by imposing a new slate of fees to be paid by people under the Probation Department's control.

And Swarts continues to press the Legislature to support his proposal for increasing cover-page fees, the fees on documents filed with the clerk's office, to finance the reopening of at least one auto bureau.

e-mail: pfairbanks@buffnews.com

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