Tonight's scheduled votes on three more tobacco-funded projects were postponed Monday during a meeting of the Niagara County Legislature's Finance Committee.
Instead, the full Legislature is to choose a date to convene another special meeting to analyze possible projects.
Legislator Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, told his colleagues, "This whole capital projects process has been unprofessional. It stinks."
He noted that a thorough review of a $3.7 million public safety building last week resulted in the Legislature's cutting its cost by $1.2 million.
That brought to $4.8 million the amount of tobacco money already allocated. Other uses already approved included the purchase of new Sheriff's Department patrol cars, new cars and trucks for the rest of the county vehicle fleet and heavy equipment for the Highway Department.
The county had $19 million for capital projects and purchases after selling its share of the national tobacco settlement for $47 million and using most of it to pay off its existing bonded debt.
Majority Leader Shirley G. Urtel, R-Cambria, said she was under the impression that there was consensus during a special meeting Wednesday to hold votes tonight on the reconstruction of Beach Ridge Road in Pendleton and Loveland Road in Wheatfield and the allocation of funds to complete a records storage building in Lockport.
Beach Ridge Road is estimated to cost $2.3 million, Loveland Road $1.2 million and the records building $160,000.
But Minority Leader Robert L. Seger, D-North Tonawanda, blocked the vote by informing Urtel that he would not permit the three items to appear on tonight's agenda as late resolutions. That is a prerogative of both party leaders and the Legislature chairman.
Seger said the money should not be allocated until there is a firm schedule of when it will actually be spent.
Under state law, the county has to actually spend, rather than simply allocate, 10 percent of the $19 million by May 9, the six-month anniversary of the bond sale. It must spend 45 percent by Nov. 9 and 75 percent by May 9, 2002, and all the money by Nov. 9, 2002.
Legislator Malcolm A. Needler, R-North Tonawanda, questioned the road projects because of the long lead time they would require. "We're pushing everything into the fourth quarter (of the bond period)," he said.
Urtel said, "We may have to move a couple of (other) projects faster than than we thought."
Meanwhile, the county treasurer's office will compile a timeline on how quickly the money can actually be spent, rather than allocated.
Urtel said she is concerned about the records storage building, since the records-management program is grant-funded and a June deadline is in place to show progress on its construction in order to qualify for more state grants.