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NIAGARA LEGISLATORS WARY OF SELLING DAVISON ROAD SITE

Niagara County legislators remain reluctant to sell 95 acres of county-owned property on Davison Road.

The Legislature's Public Works Committee this week again delayed a decision on the move. It also continued to hold up the sale of buffer strips to two adjacent groups of homeowners.

The sale seemed on the fast track until Sept. 27, when three lawmakers from Lockport -- Legislator Harry J. Apolito, a Democrat, and Legislators Glenn S. Aronow and Richard E. Updegrove, both Republicans -- introduced a resolution to call a halt to the plan.

They said the county has spent $633,000 on repairs, construction and renovation at the Davison Road complex in the last seven years.

But the spark that caused the blockage was County Manager Gregory D. Lewis' proposal that the county build two office campuses, one in the eastern part of the county and one in the western part, and concentrate all its noncourt operations there.

The Legislature has not yet approved Lewis' idea, which would cost an estimated $50 million, but the three Lockport lawmakers noted that the county would look silly if it sold 95 acres and then went looking for land to build an office campus.

"We need to think about where we're heading under Mr. Lewis' 10-year capital plan," Updegrove said.

Public Works Commissioner Kevin P. O'Brien said that if the county holds on to the property, it would have to do something with the buildings there. The county vacated them last year when it moved most of the departments from the site to other quarters in downtown Lockport.

The largest building is the Switzer Building, the one-time county infirmary, which until last year was headquarters for the Social Services Department.

O'Brien said the buildings, except for two records storage buildings the county built in the 1990s, are in poor condition. He said the county vacated them because of poor ventilation systems, leaky roofs and a lack of handicapped accessibility.

O'Brien estimated that it would cost $150,000 to mothball the buildings. He said that this would include two roof replacements.

If the county decided to demolish everything except the records buildings, which it plans to keep, the price tag would be $475,000, including $100,000 for asbestos removal, O'Brien said. Also, the county would have to find somewhere to put the offices of the Drug Task Force, the only remaining tenant.

If the county changed its mind and decided to renovate the buildings for reuse, the cost is estimated at $1 million. If the county sold the property with the buildings still standing, Updegrove said, the cost of demolition would doubtless reduce the sale price.

However, Legislator Peter E. Smolinski, R-North Tonawanda, got all Davison Road issues tabled again until he can consult with the Refuse Disposal District about whether its heavy equipment could be used to demolish the buildings.

Refuse District Director Richard P. Pope said, "I don't know of any county equipment that would be big enough. (The job) would have to be privatized."

O'Brien said Windermere Road residents and the Waterford Estates Condominium Association still want to buy buffer strips, even if the county does not sell the rest of the land. He had made tentative agreements in September with both groups. Windermere Road residents were to buy a 75-by-700-foot strip at the southwest corner of the county's property, about 1.2 acres, for $3,500 an acre.

Waterford Estates residents were to take a 300-by-1,595-foot parcel, almost 11 acres, for $3,600 an acre. However, O'Brien said the width of that parcel has been reduced to 280 feet because the diamonds of the An-Jo League, a youth baseball league headed by Apolito, encroached into the larger parcel.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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