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Giambra Unveils Plan to Reopen Parks, Rehire Probation Officers

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – Erie County's 12 parks could re-open soon under a plan unveiled Tuesday by County Executive Joel Giambra.

The parks were closed in January at the onset of the county's budget crisis. Earlier this month, the County Legislature approved a plan to re-open the county's two golf courses. And if County Executive Giambra has his way, the rest of the parks will re-open.

"Our plan would allow us to open the parks on or about May 1st," Giambra said. "This proposal will allow us to keep individuals on the payroll through November 1st only. So, this is a temporary stop-gap measure to get the parks open this year."

Giambra is asking the County Legislature to reallocate $1 million now earmarked for improvements at All High Stadium for the parks.

He says they'll once again begin accepting reservations for use of park shelters this summer. There will be no increase in their rental fees.

But Giambra is seeking new fees on probationers to fund the rehiring of 10 probation officers. They would be charged a $35 supervision fee. Probation Commissioner George Alexander said he's confident his department will be able to collect fees from convicted criminals.

"There are all sorts of strategies that we could put in place, including the filing of judgements against people who don't pay the fee," Alexander said. "But it is a system based on fairness.. If a person does have an inability to pay, we'll grant them waivers."

But questions remain on whether there are the necessary ten votes in the County Legislature to add the probation fees. A simple majority of eight votes is all that's needed to re-open the parks.