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Auto Bureau planning new branch

Erie County Clerk Kathleen C. Hochul and Erie Community College authorities have reached an agreement on turning vacant space at ECC South into a new satellite branch of the Auto Bureau.

Now they must wait to see if the County Legislature approves the money.

Hochul said she expects it will. The project is budgeted at $50,000 but could come in as low as $25,000 if things go well, she said.

And it's in her budget requests for 2008. The Legislature is expected to vote on them in the next week.

"People are excited when they hear about this," Hochul said. "Having something on the boundary of Hamburg and Orchard Park will be good for the residents of the Southtowns, and it will be good for the campus as well."

The county has five other satellite auto bureaus -- in Evans Town Hall, West Seneca Kiwanis building, on ECC's North Campus, in the Town of Tonawanda's Sheridan-Parkside Center and in Tonawanda City Hall.

The new bureau is needed because the West Seneca one has been so successful, Hochul said. It conducts about 1,500 transactions a week with just two cashiers. The space is limited and lines can get long.

William D. Reuter, ECC's interim president, said it will benefit the college, too.

"It's a great relationship," he said. "It shows different governmental entities can work together for the greater good."

ECC would receive $5,000 a year from the county for use of the space at both ECC sites. The county had not been paying for use of the smaller North Campus site.

Provided Hochul's funding is approved, the new site would be about 900 square feet in Building 7, the Work Force Development Building. It would go into an area that is currently used as an eating area for the maintenance crews, Hochul said.

Access to the bureau would be off Abbott Road, near Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Hochul said she hopes the office can be open by March. While she's requesting four part-time hirings in her 2008 budget, she said the ECC South office would be staffed by reallocating current staff.

The site needs new walls, counters, a testing area and a seating area, she said. Hochul hopes to create a ticket system so customers can be seated while they wait to be called rather than wait in line.

She acknowledged the auto bureaus aren't likely to ever go back to large-scale stand-alone sites. The bureaus' staffing has fallen from 120 full- and part-timers in 2005, when cuts were made because of the county's fiscal crisis, to 79 today.


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