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Stray dogs and cats may move to plusher quarters in late summer after the Genesee County Legislature on Wednesday approved three contracts for a $631,000 animal shelter to be built on county-owned property on West Main State Road.

County Manager Jay A. Gsell said the general contractor, New Cal Construction of Darien, anticipates groundbreaking in April and estimates four months for construction of the 6,500-square-foot shelter.

New Cal was the lowest of 13 bidders.

The new facility will replace the animal shelter on Mill Street in the city.

The Legislature's 8-1 approval will permit the state Dormitory Authority to authorize the project.

Legislator John L. Sackett Jr., R-Elba, voted no. He said he is an animal lover but objects to "discretionary funding that is not necessary."

The lawmakers also went on record supporting the creation of new Empire Zones for all New York counties. Genesee and its neighbors, Wyoming and Orleans, are currently not eligible under state law.

John C. Dwyer, director of the county's Industrial Development Agency, told the legislators that the Empire Zones are "the most significant impact offered in any state in the U.S." They appeal to out-of-state businesses, he said, because they are exempt from property and sales taxes for 10 years, and reap discounts for utilities and payroll taxes.

Currently, the zones are limited to certain counties and urban areas with a low income threshold. For Genesee, Dwyer said: "We cannot compete. This is not a level playing field."

The legislators' plea will go to state officials and state development agencies.

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