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CORICA BLOCKS EXTENSION OF $1.2 MILLION IDA LOAN

County Legislature Finance Committee Chairman Richard C. Corica Tuesday blocked an extension of a 5-year-old county loan to the county Industrial Development Agency, demanding that the IDA pay up.

The $1.2 million loan, originally given in October 1992, has been extended six times. The IDA still owes $950,000 on the principal, but has brought quarterly interest payments up to date.

The loan, originally used to construct a Wheatfield building that includes the IDA headquarters and several small businesses, is entangled with the county's efforts to lure Kiwi International Air Lines to provide passenger service at Niagara Falls International Airport.

The scenario mapped out this summer calls for the IDA to gain clear title to the office building through a property swap with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and mortgage the building with the state Job Development Authority and the New York Power Authority's Niagara Economic Development Fund.

The IDA then would use the proceeds to pay off the county loan, on which it still owes $950,000. The county, in turn, was supposed to lend $550,000 back to the IDA for it to lend to Kiwi.

However, none of that has happened. The title to the real estate is not quite cleared up; the state agencies have not come through with the mortgage; and the Kiwi deal is still on hold.

Corica, a Lockport Democrat responsible for setting up the loan arrangement instead of simply lending Kiwi money from the county surplus, had the resolution withdrawn from Tuesday's agenda. He said of the IDA, "They have to have a deadline here."

Decrying the IDA's "lack of courtesy" to the county, he fumed, "I'm just not going to authorize (a loan extension) anymore. . . . There's no Kiwi project without this money. Maybe this'll get them fired up."

Legislator Robert R. Villani, D-Town of Niagara, a member of the IDA board and a prime mover in the Kiwi effort, said, "It's not lighting a fire. We're doing everything we can to get that (state) loan."

Villani said the IDA does not have enough cash to pay the county loan off unless it receives the state mortgage. He said the agency is trying to clean up after "the errors of past board members and past attorneys. This (IDA) board is a good board," he said.

Villani said the state money should emerge from Albany red tape in a few weeks, but IDA officials have been saying that since the Kiwi deal first surfaced nearly six months ago.

In other action, the Legislature approved a 50 percent increase in the ceiling for veterans' property tax exemptions, from a home assessed at full value of $80,000 to one of $120,000.

The sponsor, Legislator John S. Tylec, D-North Tonawanda, said his primary motivation was to help veterans in his city. Because North Tonawanda has not reassessed property in nine years, the state has calculated that it is taxed at only two-thirds of full value, and thus veterans receive only two-thirds of the value of the exemption.

Legislators Lee Simonson, R-Lewiston, and Margaret F. Truax, R-Lockport, voted against the measure.

The Legislature also filled the two seats on the five-member Board of Ethics that have been vacant since two terms expired March 31.

Appointed to three-year terms were the Rev. James Massie, rector of Lockport's Grace Episcopal Church, and Sandra Mettler of Ransomville, a 16-year Social Services Department employee. The county's ethics code requires one member of the board to be a unionized county worker.

In other business, the Legislature:

Was informed by Legislator Frank N. Conde, D-Niagara Falls, that the county has received a $640,000 state Department of Environmental Conservation grant to help pay the $1,281,305 cost of closing the former county landfill in Lockport.

Refuse Disposal District Director Richard P. Pope said the grant would be used to replace tax money for the closure that was expected to be in the 1998 county budget.

Scheduled a Nov. 5 public hearing on a $4.96 million sewer district construction project, including work at two pump stations and the wastewater treatment plant in Wheatfield.

Sent $503,317 in extra state mental health aid to four non-profit agencies with Mental Health Department contracts: the Dale Association, Family and Children's Services, Community Missions, and Wyndham Lawn Home for Children.

Used a $20,000 state grant for the consulting firm of Hyjek & Fix to work on a strategy to protect the future of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Base from future closure.

Appropriated $200,000 for cleaning of the sludge lagoon at the water district filtration plant; $32,000 for redecorating patients' rooms and the lobby of Mount View Health Facility; and $27,579.94 for a new roof on the Oppenheim Park Shelter Building.

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