An unhappy County Legislature committee learned Monday that Niagara County Community College wants to spend $730,000 on an access road that could serve the college's new student housing.
Also Monday, the Cambria Planning Board decided that the project will not have a significant environmental impact and granted a special-use permit for new college signs.
But the Legislature's Public Works Committee tabled the measure on the access road despite protests from college administrators.
NCCC President James P. Klyczek and Vice President for Operations Dennis P. Dragich asserted they didn't need the Legislature's permission to build the road because they were reallocating money the Legislature had granted them several years ago for other projects.
The county borrowed that money and allocated it for roof replacements, restroom improvements and new fire alarms in college buildings.
Dragich said that those collectively came in $1.3 million under budget. Also, he said, the college was dropping or delaying about $1 million worth of other projects that had been included in the package for its master plan.
Those included construction of a new planetarium, installation of new library carpeting and purchase of classroom furniture for Building C. Dragich said the furniture has already been bought from the regular budget.
"There's nothing criminal about giving that $1.3 million back," Legislature Chairman Clyde L. Burmaster said.
Legislators tabled the request to reallocate the money after County Manager Gregory D. Lewis said he thought Legislature approval was needed for a fresh use.
The new road, about two-thirds-of-a-mile long, will run off Route 31 near the eastern edge of the campus. Dragich said that it won't run directly to the planned housing but will complete a ring road around the campus.
He said that it would enable tractor-trailers to drive directly to the loading docks behind Building G but acknowledged that residents of the dorms could use it, too.
Burmaster, R-Ransomville, complained that NCCC had promised that the dorms would not cost the taxpayers any money. "Now we're putting in a road," he said.
"It's not connected to the housing," Dragich answered.
"Then we don't have to do it," Burmaster shot back.
Legislator Harry J. Apolito, D-Lockport, said Student Housing Village Corp., the not-for-profit entity the college created to own and build the dorms, should pay for the road. He pointed out that the corporation is going to the county Industrial Development Agency for financial aid, anyway.
Committee Chairman Gerald K. Farnham, R-Lockport, said the road request should have been presented as a part of the housing project months ago. "This," he said, "is a mistake."
Farnham said the corporation is going to have to pay the county for damage to the existing campus roads expected to be caused by construction equipment. He said he suggested putting a service road in when the housing project first was presented to the Legislature.
Klyczek said the committee should have made a distinction between the access road and the other planned new uses for the leftover money.
He said the college's swimming pool urgently needs a new ceiling, because tiles have fallen into the water. He also said the final phases of the college's ongoing replacement of doors and windows should be accelerated.
In Cambria, the Planning Board vote means primarily that the project has a chance to jump through many more hoops.
At 8 p.m. next Monday, the Zoning Board of Appeals will consider variances for the project and a special permit that would allow residential use in an educational zone.
Planning Board Chairman William Amacher called a special meeting for 9 p.m. Monday to begin considering the college's subdivision request for the 12-acre housing parcel. Site plan approval would come at a later meeting.
Councilman George Bush suggested that the housing should be built in the southeast corner of the campus instead of the northeast corner. That would reduce parking and traffic congestion on campus roads and make utility connections easier, he said.
Bassan Deeb, executive director of the housing corporation, said that all four corners of the campus were considered for the project and that the northeast was chosen because it is farthest from off-campus residential areas and closest to the student center.
"I'd rather have it in the back corner out of sight," Amacher said.