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To prevent glass panels from falling on patrons admiring flowers, covered walkways have been added in the Erie County Botanical Gardens.

To view the plantings, visitors now walk through a tunnel with open sides. While some like the view, the arrangement prevents gazing into the tropical foliage reaching up into the classic glass dome.

"Any time the wind comes up more than 45 miles per hour, my orders are to close the building," county Parks Commissioner James J. Jankowiak said last week.

Jankowiak said the department's workers built the roofed walkways under the century-old landmark's glass dome.

The Parks Department wants to spend $5 million over the next five years to preserve the building and the extensive garden displays.

Jankowiak won support from a County Legislature panel last week to seek an initial $500,000 grant from the state Environmental Bond Fund.

"It's such an important facility," said Legislator Gregory B. Olma, D-Buffalo, chairman of the Energy and Environment Committee, where Jankowiak made his proposal.

The committee recommended approving $21 million in projects for the Parks and the Environment and Planning departments. More than $8 million call for applications to the state, while $13 million involve issuing county bonds for sewer districts. The panel's recommendations will go to the full Legislature for vote Thursday.

In addition to the Botanical Gardens, state funds would provide $375,000 for landscaping and play area and parking improvements at Bennett Beach in Evans, $5.1 million to increase the size of the overflow retention facility near Smokes Creek in Lackawanna and $2.55 million to rebuild the Southtowns Sewage Treatment Plant.

Bennett Beach, ending its first season under county control, will undergo continuous upgrades.

"Every weekend, the beach was blanket to blanket," Jankowiak said. "We had no problems, no accidents. It was a very good year."

Charles J. Alessi, deputy commissioner of environment and planning, said sewer projects are planned for both sides of Woodlawn Beach State Park in Hamburg.

Woodlawn Beach was closed for 30 days of the 108-day season last summer.

The $2.55 million grant for Southtowns would modify the overflow holding area and change the sludge system.

The Legislature committee also recommended issuing bonds for $13 million, which the sewer districts would spend during the next 10 years on:

$2.8 million to build new sewers and eliminate three older sewage-pumping units in Clarence, with costs to be assessed to all of Sewer District 5.

$135,000 for Sewer District 5 to extend service into Clarence's Staley Road area. The new funds would be in addition to $1.2 million originally approved in 1992.

$10 million for equipment upgrades in the Southtowns Sewage Treatment Plant.

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