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Cattaraugus County has hired a firm to manage its $2 million transportation program and has agreed to a contract through 2003.

VMC Group of Bohemia, N.Y., will take over managing the transportation system, most of which is mandated for agencies, Medicaid recipients, Social Services clients and Youth Bureau programs.

Up to 60 percent of the costs are reimbursed through state and federal programs.

In the past, a single vendor, Carrier Coach, provided the service and subcontracted to other transportation providers and bus operators.

VMC will receive $22,000 through Dec. 31; $119,000 in 1999; and then $146,000 a year through 2003. It will also be paid 25 percent of any savings the county experiences in transportation costs.

County Legislature Minority Leader Charlotte McLaughlin, D-Olean, who headed a committee to streamline transportation services in the county, said, "Transportation for our county is a real problem for residents, as we are so spread out. This resolution moves toward goals, and down the road, we may be able to fit in public ridership."

In other matters Wednesday, the Legislature hired Herendeen Architect of East Amherst to do a space-needs study for the courts and law offices in the County Center. The firm will be paid $4,400 and is to report by April 30.

The promotion of Sandra Ponczkowski to deputy budget director with a raise of $2,600 was approved by lawmakers. Legislator Larry Mack, D-Humphrey, voted against it, saying that her salary is $40,943 and that she should get a 3 percent raise, or $1,228, in line with other employees.

Legislature Chairman Gerard Fitzpatrick, R-Ellicottville, responded that the increase was the "prerogative" of County Administrator Donald Furman, who oversees the budget's preparation.

"Then deduct it from his paycheck," Mack said. "How can we justify 3 percent raises to others? That's why employee morale is so low around here."

Legislator Elliott Ellis, D-New Albion, said Ms. Ponczkowski "is being duly compensated for what she does" and often puts in extra hours without being paid.

Several other routine contracts were approved plus a new one for Gail Herman of Ellicottville. She will provide drug and alcohol testing of public-assistance applicants and recipients at $40 per evaluation.

Fitzpatrick was directed to appoint a task force for the Thatcher Brook watershed to recommend solutions for flooding in that part of the county. The members will include representatives from the Village of Gowanda, the Persia, Dayton and Perrysburg town boards, county legislators from those districts, and the Gowanda School District.

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