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ECC BOARD PURSUES PRESERVING SUBURBAN CAMPUSES

Despite opposition from the county executive, the Erie Community College board is moving ahead with a master plan for the college's future that preserves the suburban campuses.

The board within a month plans to hire consultants to develop a strategic plan for the college and a master plan that will chart ECC's proposed physical expansion.

School officials expect the two plans to be completed by the end of January, a deadline set by ECC's accrediting agency.

"We're moving forward in the institution," ECC President William J. Mariani said at Tuesday's board meeting.

But the fight between ECC officials and the Erie County administration over the college's master plan isn't letting up.

Laurence K. Rubin, the county's commissioner of environment and planning, is questioning whether ECC trustees violated state law in approving their version of the master plan.

Tuesday, ECC trustees debated whether to hire their own lawyer to provide advice on the matter, but for now will wait to hear from the county attorney.

It's the latest wrinkle in a year-long tussle between County Executive Joel A. Giambra and college officials over the future of ECC's suburban campuses.

Giambra wants to consolidate three ECC campuses into one state-of-the-art City Campus.

The trustees rejected that plan at their Sept. 29 meeting. Instead, they approved a vision for the college that maintains the Amherst and Orchard Park campuses but moves some programs and staff to the city.

The trustees are hiring new consultants to produce a strategic plan and a master plan even though a consultant hired by the county last year, BHNT Architects, produced an extensive report on the college.

The master plan will assess existing buildings and detail a plan for any rehabilitation or new construction needed to put in place the trustees' vision.

The trustees are asking the new consultants to come up with two versions of a master plan: one that phases it in and one that introduces it at once.

At the Sept. 29 meeting, the trustees took two votes now questioned by Rubin: to accept the BHNT report and to move forward with their own plan.

"We are extremely concerned that the ECC board of trustees has not considered, and may not have complied with, the requirements of the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) in taking these two votes," Rubin wrote to Dr. James G. Corasanti, the board chairman, in a letter discussed Tuesday.

Trustees Adam W. Perry and Nancy A. Gaglione said they believe the board followed the requirements of the state's environmental review process. They wondered whether County Attorney Frederick A. Wolf, a Giambra appointee, can make a fair judgment in this case.

"I think we need to protect our own interests," Gaglione said.

The trustees decided to wait and see what opinion Wolf issues and what action the county administration then takes.

e-mail: swatson@buffnews.com

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