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Amherst Council Member Penny F. Zeplowitz said Monday that the supervisor and town attorney also were using $850,000 as the estimated cost of the Audubon Library expansion project until it had to be increased to $1.1 million just hours before approval by the Amherst Town Board March 20.

Mrs. Zeplowitz defended her role as the board's liaison for the library project, claiming that criticism by fellow Republican Council Member James P. Hayes is aimed at hurting her chances for re-election this fall.

Hayes last week took the councilwoman to task for publicly announcing March 17 that the project would cost $850,000 -- a figure that didn't include engineering and contingency fees or an $85,000 parking lot.

Despite being the board's liaison, Mrs. Zeplowitz didn't attend project meetings or check out the $850,000 estimate to make sure it was accurate, Hayes charged.

Mrs. Zeplowitz said the town engineer didn't inform the Town Board of the additional costs until the afternoon of March 20, explaining to her later that he had only received them from consultants two days earlier.

However, the consultants sent the information to the town March 15, according to a stamped document given to board members.

The councilwoman also produced a memo that Supervisor Thomas J. Ahern sent her March 17, a Friday, dealing with the library project resolution on the board's agenda for March 20, a Monday.

In the memo, Ahern said he had met with Town Attorney John P. Lane the morning of March 17 on the "$850,000 . . . library addition project."

Mrs. Zeplowitz denied Hayes' charge that she blamed the incident on the town Engineering Department. She said she holds "the consultants, not Engineering" responsible for the last-minute increase in the project cost estimate.

Mrs. Zeplowitz said, "I think the events speak for themselves. The supervisor, the town attorney and myself all worked on this resolution and we were informed of the additional costs at the afternoon meeting on March 20.

"Mr. Hayes' statements are inaccurate, misleading and highly unprofessional. Most importantly, he had every opportunity March 20 to voice any of his concerns about the fiscal aspects of the project, and he said absolutely nothing," Mrs. Zeplowitz said.

"This petty, mean-spirited attack on my character demonstrates Mr. Hayes' well-known hatchet-man mentality," she said.

With Amherst Republicans preparing to endorse their slate of candidates next month, Hayes' "timing also quite obviously reflects his own particular political agenda," Mrs. Zeplowitz said.

In the 1991 Town Board race, Mrs. Zeplowitz won in November after knocking off an endorsed candidate -- an incumbent Republican councilman -- in the GOP primary. Hayes is a town GOP committee member.

Mrs. Zeplowitz, who seeks a second four-year term, is one of six candidates for three GOP endorsements for the Town Board this fall.

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