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An unfinished $1.9 million building should be used for truck storage until Amherst can afford a new ice rink.

And don't call the movers just yet for three large town departments.

Those were the recommendations Wednesday of Councilman Harold J. Collier, who nine days earlier proposed departmental moves and a conversion of the new building at Millersport Highway and New Road into the new home of the Amherst Engineering Department.

"The fiscal red flag is up for our budgets in '91, '92 and probably beyond," Collier said in explaining his change of heart.

The 35,000-square-foot building was built to house an aviation museum before the Town Board last July approved spending another $2 million to convert it into the town's third ice rink.

Now, Collier is trying to persuade other board members that the ice rink is too expensive, with the economy on the decline and state and federal cutbacks in aid to local governments.

On Dec. 17, the longtime councilman proposed moving the town Engineering Department from its building on North Forest Road to the new building at Millersport and New. Collier said storage space could also be set aside for Highway Department trucks. His plan, Collier had said, would allow the Building Department to move to North Forest Road and free up space in Town Hall for -- among other things -- an expansion of the cramped quarters of the Planning Department.

Office and parking space at Town Hall on Main Street in the Village of Williamsville are increasingly at a premium, officials have complained.

The series of moves would cost about $600,000, considerably less than the $2 million needed for the ice rink, Collier had argued.

But Wednesday, Collier said the three departments should figure on making do with their present quarters for the foreseeable future.

And instead of moving the Engineering Department offices to Millersport and New, Collier said he now believes the cavernous structure should be, in effect, used for storage until the town can afford the ice-rink project.

Collier said the ground inside the unfinished building could be covered with stone to meet the vehicle-and-equipment storage needs of the Highway and Engineering departments.

The Town Board will hold a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 4 on the use of the new building.

Supervisor Daniel J. Ward last week said he is confident that the Town Board majority wants to proceed with the ice-rink project in spite of Collier's belief that it should be postponed. Collier said fiscal forecasts for the town in the first few years of the decade are "alarming, to say the least."

"We've been told that we can expect the state to gut their support of senior-citizen and youth programs, to expect at least a 10 percent reduction in revenue sharing and a decrease of 7 percent in funding for local highway projects in '91.

"We're also looking at decreases in mortgage taxes and in development-related fees," Collier said.

"Our tax rate for next year is up 46 cents (per $1,000 of assessed valuation), and that's 9 1/2 percent, the second largest in the past decade," he told The Buffalo News.

Collier also noted that the town's general-fund surplus will have been depleted from $6.1 million at the end of 1989 to, "at best, $3.5 million by the end of 1991."

"We don't have a handle on revenues because of a combination of factors, and we're going to want a cushion -- and that means no additional bonding unless absolutely necessary -- to take us through these next few years," Collier said.

"I'm telling our hockey people that the project is still alive, but it needs to be postponed and reviewed on an annual basis until we can plug it in without it adding to our fiscal problems," Collier told The News.

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