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Niagara County crews and a private construction contractor have met a Tuesday deadline for erecting the shell of the new records-storage building, allowing the county to apply for state money to begin working on the inside.

The county set aside $175,000 for the project, but Edward P. Watkins, deputy public works commissioner for engineering, said that an additional $160,000 is needed to finish the 9,200-square-foot, one-story building.

It is located behind the Social Services Department complex on Davison Road, not far from a former nurses' residence that was converted into a records-storage building in 1998. The latter is already full.

County Clerk Wayne F. Jagow said the prefabricated metal walls and roof of the new building had to be up by Feb. 1 for the county to be eligible to apply to the State Archives and Records Administration for up to $75,000 to pay for heating, air conditioning and electrical wiring for the building.

"We've got a real immediate need," Jagow said. "We have no more room for the records. Everybody is on hold."

A county crew poured the foundation for the building, and D.R. Chamberlain Construction of Lockport put up the walls and the roof. Watkins said Chamberlain's contract cost $124,000.

Watkins said a county crew will pour the floor slab in the building this spring.

Jagow said, "We're going to cut costs by using county employees as much as possible."

But Watkins said the county will have to bid out the installation of the climate-control system and wiring.

Deputy County Clerk Wendy J. Roberson, who handles the grant applications, said the state is to announce the awards June 23.

Also on the agenda is a heating and air-conditioning project for the existing records building, Roberson said.

"There's no heat there, except for a little office, and it's darn cold," she said.

The county received a $42,000 state grant for that work last year. Roberson said the project must be done by May 30, or the grant expires.

Once the new structure is wired and heated, the county can move on to finding money for shelves.

Jagow said a space crunch in the clerk's office in the courthouse led to the recent move of 320 volumes of late 19th-century deed and mortgage records to the basement vault there.

Meanwhile, County Historian David L. Dickinson said he is applying for about $14,000 in state grants to begin microfilming 20,000 pages of early 19th-century records of the county courts, treasurer's office and Board of Supervisors.

The records are stored at the former nurses' residence. Dickinson said he has inspected them.

"The earliest record I saw was 1817. It was a tax record," he said. "They're unique and, in many cases, extremely fragile."

Copies of the microfilm will be deposited in the Niagara County Community College library and in the public libraries of Lockport, Niagara Falls and North Tonawanda as well as in the historian's office, Dickinson said.

Besides the microfilming itself, Dickinson said, he wants to use about $6,000 of the grant to buy a new microfilm reader-printer.

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