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Legislators want time to examine polar bear proposal

The polar bears are heading for committee -- or at least a debate over whether Erie County should contribute a third of the $18 million price tag of a project to build a new habitat for the Buffalo Zoo's bears.

Erie County Legislature Chairwoman Barbara Miller-Williams sent the $6 million funding request to the Legislature's Community Enrichment Committee this morning after several legislators said they wanted time to examine the proposal.

County Executive Chris Collins on Tuesday surprised legislators when he sent over a request to use left over funds in several lines in the 2011 budget for the zoo's capital project.

Zoo President Donna Fernandes reiterated her concern to legislators that the zoo is in danger of losing its polar bears if it does not make progress toward its goal to raise $18 million to upgrade the habitat that houses the polar bears to meet modern standards. The exhibit was first built in the 1890s, she said. 

Fernandes told legislators during a work session today that Collins told her to secure funding commitments from the City of Buffalo and from private foundations before he would move the proposal forward. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown has proposed giving the project $535,000 from the city's capital budget next year. 

She said the zoo has commitments for just under $8 million so far for the project.

Some county legislators have called the timing of the zoo proposal "awkward" as they complete their review of a 2012 budget proposal that would cut more than 300 county jobs.

--Denise Jewell Gee

tagged

Cultural Funding | Erie County Legislature | Policy
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Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

rmccarthy@buffnews.com


Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

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Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

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Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski | jzremski@buffnews.com

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