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Public Safety Campus Could Become White Elephant under Red Budget

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – Erie County's Public Safety Campus will not open if a red budget is adopted. That was the warning delivered to the Legislature during Wednesday's budget hearings.

The Public Safety campus on Elm Street downtown has been a pet project of the Giambra Administration. But it is the County Executive's own proposed disaster budget that would keep the doors from opening.

Wednesday, Public Works Commissioner Maria Lehman told lawmakers that if the red budget is adopted, she will eliminate her entire professional staff. Lehman says there would be no employees to complete the needed work orders to begin opening the Public Safety Campus by the end of next month.

"Our intent was to have the 4th and 5th floor, where the DNA lab is, occupied before the end of the year," Lehman said. "The remainder of the building was going to be in phases through the first two quarters of of next year. If I have to a stop the work order in December, no one will be moving because it won't be completed. No one is moving in and it will be a white elephant on the landscape."

The Public Safety Campus is an essential component to the county's Homeland Security strategy. Deputy County Executive Carl Calabrese has played a major role in that effort. But he says there are a number of pet projects within the administration that can no longer be sustained because of skyrocketing Medicaid costs. He says the expense is a "reality" the county and its citizens must face.

"It takes a real a bite of out of any number of programs. One close to my heart is Homeland Security and it is not exempt," Calabrese said. "Emergency Services Commissioner Mike Walters listed for the Legislature all the cut backs that would effect our Homeland Security program and they are massive. They are essentially taking a program that has been recognized nationwide as a best practice and making it dormant."

Calabrese says there is a whole litany of buildings that would close because of the county's red budget, but he makes no apologies for the efforts to cut spending.

"This is the budget from hell," Calabrese said. "This is not what the County Executive wants to do."

Calabrese says until the state offers Medicaid reforms or completely takes over the cost for the county, the problem won't go away.