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ARCHITECT TO EVALUATE TOWN HALL EXPANSION OPTIONS

Space is getting a little tight in Amherst Town Hall.

Residents complain they can't find a parking spot. Employees are crammed into cubicles. And storage space is scarce.

That's why the Town Board last week approved spending $9,500 to have an architect evaluate three ways to expand the 34-year-old municipal building.

"We're really bursting at the seams," said Town Supervisor Susan J. Grelick. "We have employees working in the smallest of cubicles."

The same architects, Kideney Architects, also studied the expanding Town Hall a few years ago and essentially recommended doubling the size of the 27,000-square-foot building, said Building Commissioner Thomas C. Ketchum.

This time, the architects will tell the town the feasibility and cost of three options.

The first idea is to put a two-story addition on the back of Town Hall that would bridge Ellicott Creek and go into Island Park. The Village of Williamsville, not the town, owns that land.

Williamsville Mayor Basil J. Piazza said Monday that he had not yet heard of the plan and said he would call the town for more information.

"It's not worth reacting to something that's so tenuous at the moment," Piazza said.

The second option is to fill in a U-shaped alcove behind town hall that would add about 3,000 square feet.

"We're concerned that we could spend a lot of money and not really achieve the intended goals," Ketchum said.

The final option is to expand the building to the west, toward the library. The big downside of that option is that the town will lose parking spaces.

"We're already struggling regarding parking adequacy," Ketchum said.

The town also considered adding a third story to the building but realized it would be too disruptive as well as costly.

This is not the first time officials have considered expanding Town Hall. In 1996, the town considered paying $475,000 for adjacent land at 5601 Main St. And there has always been talk of building a new Town Hall in Audubon, which is already home to the town's library, court, police and senior center.

However, officials fear business along Main Street might suffer if the Town Hall left. Officials also have said a new building would be too expensive.

"It's certainly more cost-effective to expand than build another building," Grelick said.

In the meantime, Grelick said she's trying to squeeze a little more room out of the current Town Hall.

For example, an abandoned elevator shaft will be converted into an office for newly elected comptroller Larry Southwick.

"We're using the vacant elevator shaft to gain more room," Grelick explained.

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