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If Erie County is again willing to rescue the NFTA, Metro Bus and Metro Rail service will continue through March 8, NFTA Executive Director Alfred H. Savage said today.

Savage has sent a letter to County Executive Gorski asking him to advance the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority transit operation $1.2 million on Feb. 9 and an additional $852,000 on Feb. 16. The money is not scheduled for payment to the NFTA until Feb. 25.

Those advances would be drawn from the $8.2 million the county has earmarked in its 1990 budget for transit needs. The NFTA has already received advances totaling $2 million from the county since late December.

Savage indicated that if the county makes the early payments, the NFTA's next projected cash crunch would occur on March 8, when it would find itself $500,000 in the red.

Gorski said today that while he has not seen Savage's request for the additional advances, it may be possible to speed up the county's transit payments from the non-matching portion of the county's contribution. He said that's where the other $2 million in early payments was transfered from. "At this time, I'm hamstrung to give them any of the emergency . . . matching money because it goes hand-in-hand with the state's match, but we may be able to release more of the regular aid. That's something I'll have to take up with the budget department," Gorski said.

He also noted that it may be possible for county legislators to pass a local law that would change the status of the county's emergency matching aid to regular transit aid so that all remaining funds earmarked for the NFTA could be allocated to meet the authority's needs.

"I can't take that action, but I believe there's a way the Legislature can redefine the use of those funds," he said.

NFTA officials project the need for an additional $1 million on March 15 and another $500,000 on March 23. Savage said he'll ask the NFTA board of commissioners as early as today to begin planning a borrowing strategy to bridge the $2 million gap.

"The Feb. 9 (shutdown) date was firm only if we didn't come up with a borrowing plan and secure the county's help. They (the commissioners) need to address the borrowing options at this time; they have to make some decisions very soon," Savage said.

Savage admitted it may not be possible for the county to advance the NFTA any more cash at this time, because although the money has been placed in the county budget, it is considered a match to state emergency transit-aid dollars. The state is currently withholding its share until the Erie County Legislature approves a long-term local transit revenue source.

In his letter to Gorski, Savage asks the county executive to research the county's ability to make further advances "in the absence of the County Legislature adopting an acceptable resolve to the transit funding crisis."

The NFTA commissioners will be asked today to consider borrowing against the authority's operating fund or the Metro self-insurance fund.

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