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A total of $15.8 million in capital improvements for Erie, Jamestown and Niagara County community colleges was approved this week by the State University of New York board of trustees.

Receipt of the funding is dependent on ECC's and NCCC's local sponsors -- Erie and Niagara counties -- paying 50 percent of the amounts approved. JCC is sponsored regionally by the City of Jamestown and Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties.

The state's portion for each college will be drawn from Gov. Pataki's $2 billion, five-year capital plan for SUNY.

"This is really good news," said Marie Bartolotta, vice president for administration at ECC -- which won approval for $8.6 million in major projects, and $1.8 million for the purchase of the Vehicle Technology Training Center on Big Tree Road in Orchard Park.

"This is a five-year plan," Ms. Bartolotta said. "The trustees' approval means we can implement and reprioritize Phase I of our master plan as we see fit."

Phase I of the plan includes such maintenance items as roof repairs at ECC's Downtown Campus, masonry and ironwork restoration, atrium rehabilitation -- and roadway and parking lot renovations at ECC's other campuses.

Other Phase I items approved for funding are improvements to ECC's athletic track and tennis courts, and code compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"We need to garner the support of our local legislature and budget group -- to take a look at, identify and prioritize what projects we'll kick off first here," said ECC's interim president William J. Mariani.

Erie County actually put up the money for the Vehicle Training Technology Center purchase a year ago -- after it was determined that leasing the building was costing the college about $300,000 annually plus taxes, maintenance and utilities, Ms. Bartolotta noted.

The county will now be reimbursed 50 percent by the state for the purchase of the center.

Niagara County has already committed its share of $3.6 million in renovations and infrastructure and other improvements for NCCC, as well as $926,000 -- also approved by the SUNY trustees this week for technology at NCCC -- according to college spokesman Timothy Girdlestone.

"This is really exciting for us," he said. "After so many years of trimmed and tough budgets and not being able to keep up with the technology, we're finally getting our technology initiative -- including a distance learning center."

NCCC will also get a new, freestanding Central Services Building, and will be able to renovate its science and student center buildings, Girdlestone noted.

"We're ready to go ahead," he said. "The work will start as soon as we get the money."

A total of $850,000 was approved for JCC -- for expansion of its energy management system; an increase in cabling for its computer units; construction of new physics laboratories, new campus signage and renovation of the college's training and community services centers.

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