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The City Council on Monday will be asked to authorize up to $8,800 in Community Development funds toward the conversion of the old Niagara Falls High School into an arts and cultural center.

The money will be used to retain an architect to assist with preparation of grant applications for the center. The Council will be asked for the funding to hire Clinton Brown Co., which did a feasibility study for Save Our Sites Niagara, the grass-roots organization that fought to save the building from demolition and obtained the title to it from the School Board.

Capital funding would be sought from the state under the Environmental Protection Fund of 1983 and the Clean Water Clean Air Bond Act of 1996. The application deadline is Aug. 31. Community Development Director John C. Drake said grants from the state and other sources will be an important source of funding for the nonprofit group's plans for the school.

Clinton Brown would provide recommendations for improvements for the building's reuse, construction estimates for costs, schedules and preliminary permit and environmental review information.

Councilman Paul A. Dyster, a big booster of saving the school, said he has no problem using Community Development funds for that purpose. He said that although the city needs to be careful about relationships with nonprofit organizations, it's clear in this case the city has a big interest in the property. The school is located at a prominent intersection, a gateway to the Pine Avenue Little Italy District. Since Brown's services would be to support grant applications, Dyster said, "It seems anything we pay to secure grant monies would be highly leveraged."

Council Chairman Anthony F. Quaranto, however, said he opposes any city money going into the project. Quaranto said he has many questions to ask before Monday's vote, including whether there are any signed tenants yet.

In a related matter, the Council will be asked to approve rezoning of the school property at 1201 Pine Ave. from three-family residential to general commercial.

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