LOCKPORT – Converting all of the vehicles owned by Niagara County government to run on liquefied petroleum gas is not financially feasible, a report to the county said last week.
Blue Springs Energy, a Webster consulting firm, reported last year that conversions to compressed natural gas, electric vehicles or hybrids also would cost the county millions, while it would take as long as 65 years to recoup the initial costs through fuel savings.
However, the 2013 report, which cost the county $7,500, didn’t touch on liquefied petroleum gas, so Blue Springs did another report.
“The outcome of this is like the other one,” Public Works Commissioner Kevin P. O’Brien said last week. “The infrastructure isn’t out there to fuel the vehicles.”
And depending on the type of vehicle, the length of time to recoup the initial investment ranged from 55-to-450 years.
There would be an annual savings of about $17,000 on the county’s motor fuel costs, but the study found it would cost $10.2 million to replace all the vehicles in the county fleet. Retrofitting existing vehicles is no cheaper, according to the study.
Also last week, the County Legislature’s Public Works Committee decided to appropriate $1 million from the county’s fund balance to pay towns for plowing snow on county roads.
The historically cold winter of 2013-14 drove the budget for such payments deep into the red, even though the 2014 budget allocated $1.2 million for payments to towns for snow removal.
“We’re more than a million bucks in the hole,” said Michael F. Tracy, deputy public works commissioner for highways. “We’ve got four towns left to pay and we just ran out of money.”
O’Brien said the $1 million appropriation also will cover an advance payment to the towns for next winter, which is due Oct. 15.
On another matter, the county will hire a Watertown firm to design permanent repairs to crumbling masonry on corners of the county courthouse.
The stone started falling around Jan. 1, and the county spent $13,000 on a temporary repair job. The crumbling was blamed on moisture entering the stone and the winter’s freeze-thaw cycle.
Bernier, Carr & Associates will be paid $12,000 to design repairs for the corner joints, and another $1,200 to plan repairs to the exterior steps on the east side of the courthouse and the exterior of the Civil Defense Building at Niagara and Hawley streets.
Richard W. Eakin, deputy commissioner for engineering, said the original steps were sandstone and were later replaced by concrete. Since the courthouse is deemed a historic site, sandstone replacement steps will probably be required, he said.