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FORUMS TO AIR NEEDS OF SMALL BUSINESSES

Erie County lawmakers agreed Thursday on a new small-business effort.

Legislators approved plans for 10 public forums across the county to find ways to strengthen small-business corridors from Buffalo to the far-flung suburbs.

Some of the ideas suggested by residents and business owners at the forums might be funded in the county's budget for next year, legislators said.

"There are some areas (of the county) where government and businesses have pulled together and improved the area. But there aren't many," said Legislature Chairman Charles M. Swanick, D-Kenmore.

The forums, approved 17-0, will begin in mid-July and run throughout the summer.

A schedule will be released shortly, legislators said.

"A tremendous number of jobs exist in the small business strips that are adjacent to neighborhoods," said Legislator Judith P. Fisher, D-Buffalo.

"When you have strong businesses, you end up with strong neighborhoods," she added.

In other business, the Legislature:

Sent to committee a measure proposed by Legislator Michael A. Fitzpatrick, D-Buffalo, calling on the state to "immediately make available a significant percentage" of revenues from the new casinos that have been proposed for Buffalo and Niagara Falls, The money should be committed to building a new Convention Center and expanding mass transit, Fitzpatrick said.

"We've missed the boat before. Let's not miss it again," Fitzpatrick said.

Approved, by a 17-0, vote a 2001-2002 budget for Erie Community College. The county will contribute nearly $12.8 million of the $61.9 million total next year, said Legislator Lynn M. Marinelli, D-Town of Tonawanda.

Unanimously approved a collective-bargaining agreement between the county and ECC's faculty. The five-year agreement, retroactive to 2000, includes 3 percent annual raises in each year of the contract through 2005.

Approved a $38,000 contract with Ciminelli/Cowper for construction management services on reconstruction work on the outdoor plaza of the Rath County Office Building on Franklin Street.

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