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Niagara legislators tie purchase of former gas station to soil tests

Niagara County aims to avoid acquiring a hazardous site if it buys a former gas station on 11th Street in Niagara Falls.

An option to purchase the site, envisioned as an expanded parking lot for the nearby Trott Access Center, was approved on the condition that soil samples disclose nothing dangerous.

The county will pay the Fasciano family $75,000 for the property if it is comfortable with the test results.

Legislator Gerald K. Farnham, R-Lockport, chairman of the Public Works Committee, said the county has been told that the underground fuel tanks are gone, but the rest of the site has not been checked.

Assistant County Attorney R. Thomas Burgasser said borings will cost $5,000 to $7,000, but the county can walk away from the deal without paying for a cleanup if it doesn't like the results.

Public Works Commissioner Kevin P. O'Brien said the sellers cannot change the price, since they already have signed the contract, but the county hasn't.

Also Tuesday, the Legislature urged Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer to veto a bill designating Buffalo, rather than Tonawanda, as the western end of the Erie Canal.

"The terminus has been in Tonawanda 90 years, longer than it ever was in Buffalo," said Legislator Peter E. Smolinski, R-North Tonawanda, the resolution's lead sponsor. "It's a major tourism nightmare. People looking for the western terminus of the canal would go to Buffalo instead of Tonawanda."

On another issue, Republicans sniped at Legislator Harry J. Apolito, D-Lockport, for introducing a resolution asking the Industrial Development Agency to contact the City of Lockport about granting a tax break on the city's water supply line from the Niagara River.

Although the measure was sent to committee, members from North Tonawanda, which collects most of the $240,000 a year that Lockport pays in taxes on the land through which its waster line runs, criticized Apolito for introducing it.

Apolito said if the IDA can grant tax breaks to highly profitable AES Corp. and Seneca Niagara Gaming Corp. for a golf course, as it has in recent months, it can give one to Lockport.

"We have to try to help the people in the City of Lockport and the businesses," said Apolito, who has tried repeatedly to win county tax relief on the water line.

Smolinski said asking the development agency would be improper. "We have no control over the IDA," he insisted.

If Lockport wants a tax break from the IDA, it should submit an application, said Legislator Malcolm A. Needler, R-North Tonawanda.

"We're never going to vote on AES; we're never going to vote on Seneca Gaming; and we shouldn't vote on this," Needler said.

The Legislature, meanwhile, vote to urge the Thruway Authority to abolish tolls on the North Grand Island Bridge.

"If we all work together like we did with the [Niagara Falls] air base, I think we can get those tolls removed," said Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, the resolution's sponsor.

He said the Erie County Legislature and the Buffalo Common Council will consider similar resolutions.

Also Tuesday, the Legislature unanimously and without discussion confirmed the nomination of Robert E. Sobon as administrator of Mount View Health Facility.

Sobon will be paid at an annual rate of $89,961 until the county-owned nursing home closes by June 30.

Sobon, a Buffalo resident, was granted a waiver of the county's residency requirement.

A political dispute erupted over the appointment of Republican Election Commissioner Scott P. Kiedrowski to the Niagara County Community College board of trustees, replacing Mary Neilans of Royalton, whose term expired.

Virtuoso complained that the Legislature didn't receive proper notice, because only a resume with no indication of what the appointment was to be was placed on legislators' desks.

County Attorney Claude A. Joerg said a cover letter should have been included. Legislature Clerk James B. Sobczyk admitted not making copies of the letter for everyone. The appointment was tabled until the next meeting.


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