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$22 million in capital projects eyed

Mayor Byron W. Brown on Thursday proposed spending $22 million on various infrastructure projects, including money for the Buffalo Zoo, Coca-Cola Field and street resurfacing, as part of next year's capital budget.

The spending plan includes $5 million for streets, curbs and sidewalks, $2.7 million for improvements at community centers and other city buildings, as well as $2.68 million for building demolitions.

It also includes $1.33 million for parks improvements and $1.5 million for projects to convert Pearl Street to two-way traffic and improve the streetscape on Chippewa Street.

"We feel that these are investments that will stimulate more people to want to live in the City of Buffalo and more people to want to invest in the City of Buffalo," Brown said during a news conference in City Hall.

Brown's entire proposal was what came recommended from the Citizens Planning Council, and it hits the limit for annual borrowing set by the City Comptroller's Office. He called the debt limit "a little painful" since there are so many projects that are needed.

In total, the citizens panel reviewed $78 million in requests for funding.

Brown said this was the first time he recommended everything the review panel had put forth.

Under Brown's proposal, the city would give the Buffalo Zoo $535,000 for its planned new polar bear exhibit.

Donna Fernandes, zoo president and chief executive officer, said at the news conference that total fundraising for the project, which also includes moving the zoo's entrance, has reached about $7 million. The total cost of the project is $18 million.

Brown said he plans to recommend in his 2013 proposal that the zoo also receive funding for the project.

Buffalo Bisons General Manager Mike Buczkowski, who also was on hand for the news conference, said once a final decision is made on how much will be allocated for infrastructure improvements at the city-owned baseball park, priorities will be set on what projects will be done.

The Council has until Dec. 15 to adopt a 2012 capital budget. The 2011 spending plan is $22.4 million.

abesecker@buffnews.com