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Work on Erie County's first new county courthouse in 125 years will get under way Sept. 24 with 120 invited officials watching the groundbreaking at Niagara and Court streets. The invitation from County Executive Gorski includes a computer rendering of a gleaming seven-story building as realistic as if it were already erected.

County Public Works Commissioner John C. Loffredo will report bids for the first one third of the work to the Legislature this week and ask it to award contracts Sept. 23, the day before the ceremony.

"In general, the bids came in right on the nose, a tad under estimates," Loffredo said. "They are pretty complex bids. Each one is the size of a telephone book."

The apparent winning bidders are:

Excavations and foundations, Ciminelli Construction Co., $3.04 million.

Site work and underground plumbing, H.B. Plumbing, $179,800.

Precast concrete panels, Global, Maple Park, Ont., $2.19 million.

Structural steel, Amthor Steel, Erie, Pa., $2.59 million.

Testing, CME Associates, $48,210.

The work will produce the shell of the building, with CME, the Buffalo branch of a Syracuse company conducting tests on the materials and work of the others.

"Architects and engineers have certain expectations of materials and practices," said Lisa J. Uschold, branch manager.

CME will send in technicians with expertise in different areas to conduct do on-site tests for quality and workmanship. They will focus on the rock layers under a century-and-a-half accumulation of rubble that will be removed for the basement. The first task will be to sink a shaft through the limestone.

The quality of concrete that goes into the building will be checked 750 times, with a sample from each load placed in a 2-inch mold to "cure." The rest of the concrete already is in the building when the cured concrete is tested under pressure in a compression machine to determine its breaking point. If a sample fails the test, more investigation will follow, Mrs. Uschold said.

"It's going to look like granite," Ms. Uschold said. "It's going to be beautiful. Everyone will like it."

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