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Erie County's towns and villages may win county grants by figuring out how to work with other municipalities to improve services and save money.

The county Municipal Regionalism Committee decided on the guidelines Friday for the 25 towns and 16 villages to follow in applying for a slice of the $2.7 million county regionalism fund. Application forms will be issued next week and are to be returned by June 1 to the Erie County Legislature office.

"I think we have made it clear we are looking for the best proposals," said Kathleen Rizzo Young, a committee member.

During the two-month application period, municipalities must submit proposals backed by their boards and find an interested partner or partners.

The committee spent its meeting Friday weighing words and refining rules for the grant program.

"There is no minimum," said John B. Sheffer, chairman. "If it is a good, lower-cost project, we would want to consider it."

Guidelines for judging entries will be issued later, but Sheffer said big projects should not automatically carry the day. "Three partners should not necessarily knock out two partners," he said.

No funds are available for ongoing projects, unless they take on new dimensions, the committee decided, and if an endeavor crosses the county line, the government on the other side will have to pay its share.

Partners can submit more than one idea to improve public services and lower costs while maintaining quality.

And they can change partners if they apply more than once.

The committee's list of eligible partners includes the county, other municipalities, schools or the Board of Cooperative Educational Services, special service districts such as garbage and water, public authorities and agencies.

A town or village must take the lead, but a neighboring city could be a partner.

Kevin Hardwick, a Tonawanda City Council member, noted that last year the county money went to the cities. The City of Tonawanda wanted to study buying water from the Town of Tonawanda and other sources. That study will be funded by a $150,000 county grant to the city.

In June, the committee will start reviewing the applications and make recommendations to the County Legislature.

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