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Officials try to protect grant funds

Aurora officials are working to make sure that $400,000 in federal grants for improvements beyond the main scope of the state's East Aurora Main Street reconstruction are used for their intended purpose.

After hearing an announcement at a Main Street Reconstruction Task Force meeting that the state Department of Transportation intends to use the $400,000 toward the main construction costs of the project, local officials contacted Rep. Brian M. Higgins, D-Buffalo, who helped secure the federal money.

Town Supervisor Terence Yarnall announced Monday that Higgins sent a March 27 letter to state Transportation Commissioner Thomas Madison, stipulating that the federal grant be used for extra amenities adjacent to the project.

The state's proposed use of the funds is inconsistent with the legislative intent through which the funds were secured, Higgins wrote.

"The intent of this $400,000 . . . was for improvements in addition to the improvements to which DOT had already committed," Higgins said. "The intent was not to offset DOT's costs on this project, nor was it to fund items to which DOT had already committed in this initiative."

Yarnall first pursued the grant from federal highway legislation in 2004, shortly after he was elected supervisor.

"It was for ancillary items outside the scope of the project," he said Monday, citing extra lighting, alley improvements and park benches as examples of what qualified for the grant money.

East Aurora Village Trustee Libby Weberg, who attended Monday's Town Board meeting, told The News that she and Yarnall are working to make sure that the grant money is not misallocated since it is ultimately funneled from the federal authorities through the state DOT.

e-mail: krobinson@buffnews.com

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