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ECONOMIC RECOVERY, CENTRALIZATION ARE EMPHASIZED

Legislator Malcolm A. Needler wants to stimulate Niagara County's economy and reform its government while concentrating as much of the government as possible in a single building.

Last week, the North Tonawanda Republican proposed creating two new task forces, one to reform county government and the other to plan an economic-recovery strategy.

Business representatives would be a large part of both task forces, since the two Chambers of Commerce active in the county would be allowed to choose a majority of the government task force and a sizable chunk of the economic panel.

Needler also recommends that the Legislature create "a master plan to house all of county government in one central location."

"It's no surprise to anyone our economy has sputtered," Needler said. "It's clear no one segment of the community has the answers."

The economic-recovery task force would have no fewer than 29 members. The Niagara USA Chamber would choose eight, and the Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas would have two.

Other members would include staff members from the area's federal and state representatives; three county legislators, one member from each city government, three town representatives and single delegates from the Industrial Development Agency and the county Planning Department.

"It's only about five years overdue. Might as well get started on it sometime," said Joseph Miranto, an IDA board member.

"My task force tries to bring together all the players," Needler said.

Legislature Chairman Bradley E. Erck, D-Lockport, said he sees one important omission. "To leave labor out, I think they were remiss," he said. "This is a big partnership. I think government, business and labor should all walk along the same path."

""I think labor representatives would be welcome at the table through the Chamber," said Robert L. Newman, president of the Niagara USA Chamber.

The business groups set up a Who Does What commission for Niagara County that Newman said will report in early February on money-saving ideas for local government.

On the topic of centralizing county government, Needler said the county's effort to lease privately owned buildings in downtown Lockport and Niagara Falls is only a short-term answer to space shortages.

"My vision is, 10 years down the road, there's one building for all of county government," Needler said. "I don't care where the location is. I don't care if we build or buy."

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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