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Amherst Supervisor Daniel J. Ward expressed confidence Tuesday that a large building constructed as an aviation museum will be converted as planned into the town's third indoor ice-skating rink and recreation center.

Ward also said he will oppose moving the Building Department out of Town Hall on Main Street in the Village of Williamsville.

"I think there are four, possibly five votes (on the Town Board)" to proceed with the $4 million ice-rink project, in spite of a proposal to convert the building into a public works facility, said Ward, the board's only Democrat.

Monday, Republican Councilman Harold J. Collier proposed converting the 35,000-square-foot air museum building at Millersport Highway and Smith Road into offices for the town Engineering Department and for storing Highway Department trucks.

The conversion, Collier said, would cost about $600,000, instead of the additional $2 million projected for the ice rink. The structure itself cost $1.9 million.

Under Collier's plan, the Amherst Building Department then could move into the 4,600-square-foot engineering building at 1100 N. Forest Road, freeing office and parking space needed at Town Hall.

But Ward said officials should be seeking ways to return to a centralized town government, "not fragment it more than it already is."

Space problems in the 1970s forced the Engineering and Recreation departments out of Town Hall. Police and Town Court also outgrew a building two doors from Town Hall and now have separate buildings on Audubon Parkway. The 2,600-square-foot Building Department has 30 full-time employees, or about 87 square feet per person. The state's Building and Fire Prevention Code recommends 200 square feet per worker.

Collier's proposal would permit an expansion of the Planning Department, whose 15 full-time employees work in about 2,200 square feet of space, or about 147 square feet per person.

Larger offices for councilmen also have been discussed. Offices now measure 60 to 72 square feet.

Ward noted that three of the five departments that would be affected by Collier's proposal -- Engineering, Planning and Building -- are within his executive branch of town government.

"In one respect, it's a turf war between me and Collier and maybe some other Republicans," Ward said Tuesday. "I want a centralized executive branch as much as possible, and they want to fragment it so I'll have, in their minds at least, less control."

But Ward admitted he has "no immediate solution" to what Collier called "major space and parking crunches" at Town Hall.

"We're just going to have to continue to live within our means with what we've got until a window of opportunity opens at some point in time -- whether it be new construction or perhaps the acquisition of abutting or nearby properties," Ward said.

The supervisor said a partial solution may be reducing the size of some departments through attrition as workers retire.

Asked if he might try to resurrect prospects of building a new town hall, Ward said, "Not in my administration."

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