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The second phase of a $100,000 study by the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency to determine the feasibility of a multipurpose center was approved Thursday at a board of directors meeting.

Hunter Interests of Annapolis, Md., will receive $20,000 to determine the possible economic impact and devise a financing structure for the center, which could hold regional and national conventions, performances, art exhibits and other activities.

One property in the town and two in the village are being considered as possible sites, but their locations have not been disclosed.

The four-member ad hoc advisory committee, which came up with the idea last spring, also was given up to $10,000 by the board for travel and other expenses to scout similar facilities around the country.

"We're hoping to do it for less money than that, but we want to be able to go on out and look at various facilities and see what are the good, the bad and the ugly of those components we're interested in," said Norm Leyh, IDA executive director and a member of the advisory committee.

Leyh added that the committee would travel wherever necessary to get feedback and answers. Both Hunter's economic study and the committee's travel are expected to take about two months to complete.

Leyh declined to elaborate on what amenities will be included in the project, but said a casino will definitely not be part of any plan.

He pointed to "encouraging signs" for marketing the multipurpose center, but declined to discuss any details in a $30,000 preliminary hospitality study shown Thursday to board members by urban economist Donald E. Hunter.

Board members unanimously approved spending on Phase 2 after viewing slides and discussing the first study with Hunter in a closed-door session. The executive session was called midway through the board's business meeting to discuss real estate.

Leyh said Phase 1 results are still being examined, adding that the next step will gauge community and regional economic impacts. The possible costs of each component, debt service, operating issues, ownership and other factors also will be analyzed in Phase 2.

The committee members are Leyh; Thomas E. Buffamante of the Olean and Jamestown accounting and business consulting firm Buffamante Whipple Buttafaro; County Legislator Patrick J. McCrea, R-Franklinville; and Dennis Eshbaugh, president and general manager of Win Sum's Holiday Valley ski resort in Ellicottville.

In other business, the board:

Agreed to sign documents in an ownership transfer of Stride Tool in Ellicottville, a 1992 taxable bond project worth $560,000 that is set to retire its 10-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement next year.

Consented to the pending sale of the former St. Francis Hospital by Olean General Hospital. The agency issued $7.4 million in revenue bonds during 1998 and 1999 for renovation, demolition and construction, which Leyh said have not begun.

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