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Amherst skaters' dreams of having a new, four-rink ice arena in the town by September 1998 are in danger of melting away in the summer sun.

The would-be developer of the $18 million project says he needs a go-ahead from the Amherst Town Board Monday night to stay within an already-delayed time frame calling for construction to begin by Nov. 1 and the grand opening 10 months later.

A backup scenario for two new rinks by Sept. 1, 1998, and the other two a couple of months later would cost the town roughly $100,000 in revenue, said John E. "Skip" Cerio, managing partner for Edgewater Ventures, the town's preferred developer.

Amherst officials are non-committal about a decision Monday. Most are focused on whether the State Legislature will pass a "home rule" bill approving transfer of the title to the 12-acre project site to the Amherst Industrial Development Agency, which would finance the venture with tax-exempt bonds.

If the bill is not passed, the project is dead for at least a year and Edgewater's deadlines become moot, Amherst officials noted. Some board members remain uncertain over whether to pursue the project with Edgewater and its IDA-financing, while two others say they are unalterably opposed.

Amherst Town Attorney Phillip A. Thielman said he is ready to make a final project presentation to the Town Board on Monday, or on Aug. 18 at the next regular meeting. But "that's the board's decision," he said.

The project timetable "is getting a little tight," said Council Member Jane S. Woodward, who supports the venture with Edgewater.

But in an interview this week, Cerio said it is more than "a little tight" -- it is nearing the point where corners may have to be cut to bring it in on schedule a year from September.

But Cerio steered clear of saying he must have approvals by Monday, knowing another development team would step forward claiming it could get the job finished on time.

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