The proposed new Niagara County Public Works Department headquarters may cost almost three times as much as previously estimated, the engineering firm that made the plans reported Monday.
Richard J. Hanavan, of the firm Wendel Duchscherer, estimated a "conceptual cost" of $40 million to $42 million. Previously, county legislators had been told the project would cost about $15 million.
"We had sticker shock, too," Public Works Commissioner Kevin P. O'Brien said in an interview after the presentation to the Legislature's Public Works Committee.
Hanavan said the cost estimate includes the acquisition of the land, engineering and architectural fees and all construction and bidding costs.
The committee voted in favor of spending $150,000 to buy 60 acres of land at 5058 Junction Road in Cambria, across from an entrance to the Delphi Thermal and Interior plant.
Legislator Peter E. Smolinski, R-North Tonawanda, sought to table that motion until lawmakers receive the final version of a report requested months ago on whether the county should turn snowplowing on county roads over to the towns.
But no one would second Smolinski's motion, and he settled for voting no on the land purchase.
County Manager Gregory D. Lewis said he didn't expect the cost estimate to come in any higher than $20 million.
"I was thinking $16 million to $18 million, but I forgot some things: the change in the global economy, the increased demand for building materials," Lewis said. "Everything I've seen for public buildings is higher than it used to be. Labor costs have gone up, but the main thing is building materials."
Lewis said the county's current highway garage on South Niagara Street is too small to house all the county's heavy equipment and trucks, so they sit outside. The new building would solve that.
Public Works Committee Chairman Gerald K. Farnham said not only will it house the Public Works offices, now in the Philo J. Brooks Building on Hawley Street, but other smaller departments, ranging from the Refuse Disposal District to the Soil and Water Conservation District, may find homes in the two-story office wing of the new complex.
Hanavan said the land purchase, detailed design, bidding and construction will take 39 months, meaning there won't be a ribbon-cutting until early 2011.
That's if the project is built at all.
"The county's not committed to a $40 million or $42 million building. There'll be a lot of debate out here," Lewis said.
Farnham, R-Lockport, said another factor in the high price is that the plan now includes construction of a separate records storage building at the site, which will include room to store voting machines.
The county has two smaller records storage buildings on its Davison Road property, but Lewis said they are overflowing.
Farnham said all the documents will be emptied out of both buildings and taken to the new site. He said the shell of the new records building alone will cost $2 million, although the interior will be furnished in part with shelves and other equipment scrounged from the older buildings.