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MAIN ST. PROJECT'S IMPACT ON BUSINESSES IS CONCERN AS OFFICIALS PONDER TAX RELIEF

East Aurora village officials already are worrying about the impact of the 2007-08 Main St. reconstruction project on local businesses and want to pursue possible sales tax incentives to help the village's business climate.

"No matter how well you plan it, businesses will lose business," Trustee Jerry Thompson II said Monday.

Thompson suggested that the Village Board look into any possible sales tax incentives, rebates or grants that may be available from Albany when the state begins its $8 million makeover of Main Street.

The real impact is not expected to be felt until 2008, but Thompson said that it is important to start looking for relief initiatives well ahead of time.

Several trustees pointed to neighboring Orchard Park and the economic hardship its core business district incurred during the state's two-year reconstruction of Buffalo Road through that village. Many Orchard Park businesses struggled during the reconstruction project, the bulk of which was wrapped up last year.

Thompson said he does not want East Aurora merchants to suffer as their Orchard Park counterparts did.

Village officials Monday vowed to check with state lawmakers and other government officials to see what could be done to help East Aurora business owners.

"If there's nothing (available), there should be," Thompson said. "If not, let's create something.

"If they're doing an $8 million state project, what's it to expect some incentive to keep the character of the small-business community?"

Village Administrator Kimberly LaMarche suggested that the village consider broadening the scope of its popular Farmers' Market held at the Aurora Shopping Plaza on the West End, where there could be an additional area for other merchants to sell their goods.

The state's reconstruction has been pushed back to at least 2007 for East Aurora's Main Street because of state funding limitations. When the project does begin, it is expected to be spread over two years and encompass the stretch from the traffic circle out toward the Route 400 expressway, just past the Moose Lodge.

In another matter, the board is leaning toward reaching a consulting agreement with retired Public Works Superintendent Robert Urban to fill in after general crew chief John Kelly retires in mid-December. Kelly was named to run the Public Works Department after Urban retired in late 2002.

LaMarche said that it is important to have someone who knows the department, since budget planning is coming up, along with the Maple Street and Griggs Place projects. The board asked her to meet with Urban this week to discuss a possible six-month consulting contract.

Trustees are leaning toward working out a consulting arrangement with Urban through May 31 for a 15- to 20-hour week for a flat rate. Urban was earning $35 per hour, plus benefits, at the time he retired, village officials said.

Trustee Patrick Shea said he would want the consultant to do a thorough analysis of future public works operations.

e-mail: krobinson@buffnews.com

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