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OFFICIALS SEEK NEW TOWER SITE AFTER OUTCRY

County officials have decided to change the site of a planned 120-foot communications antenna in the face of neighborhood objections but haven't settled on a new location.

Public Works Commissioner Dorson R. Wilson said he will recommend that the tower, to be built to beam wireless Internet service to outlying county offices and connect the Lockport Police Department to a county fingerprinting system, not be constructed off the northeast corner of the Philo J. Brooks County Office Building.

Public Works Committee Chairman Gerald K. Farnham, R-Lockport, said his panel may choose a new site as soon as next Monday.

Three women whose homes on Niagara Street back up to the tower site have objected strenuously on the grounds of possible impact on their health, their property values and the aesthetics of their neighborhood.

"They're homeowners, and they have a legitimate complaint," said Farnham.

The Legislature approved the $13,000 tower project in July, but the neighbors said they were never informed. They found out when county workers cut down a tree near their back fences early this month, on the planned site for the tower.

There is a dispute over whether the county has to obey the City of Lockport zoning ordinance, which would appear to prohibit the tower in a residential zone. City building inspectors James P. McCann and Harry J. Apolito said last week that the county, as a higher level of government, is not subject to that law, and Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano agreed.

But county Code Enforcement Officer Daniel T. Gregory said he thinks the county does have to follow the city laws, and Lisa Poole, one of the protesting residents, said she had discovered a state law that says so.

County Attorney Ralph A. Boniello III said he directed one of his assistants, Richard J. Hogan Jr., to research the issue.

"I'm going to check that out thoroughly and make sure whatever needs to be done is done," Boniello said.

Farnham said possible new sites would be on the east side of the Brooks Building but in the parking lot farther away from the homes and closer to Park Avenue; on the west side of the building alongside Hawley Street; or on the grounds of the Civil Defense Building diagonally across the intersection of Niagara and Hawley streets from the Brooks Building to the northwest of the originally proposed site.

Asked about moving the tower farther from her back yard but keeping it on the east side of the Brooks Building, Poole said, "I don't have a problem with that."

But one of her neighbors, Barbara Parker, said, "If it was going to stay at the Brooks Building, I'd rather it was on the west side (along Hawley Street)."

The Hawley Street option would put the tower on what is now a sidewalk unless the Lockport Common Council agrees to a county request made earlier this year to abandon Hawley Street between Niagara Street and Park Avenue so the county can turn it into a parking lot.

But city Alderman Mark J. Dudkowski, D-3rd Ward, spoke out strongly against the abandonment. He said county officials told him that would solve the problem with the homeowners, but "that's just the county blackmailing us and giving us nothing in return."

Parker said she would prefer the Civil Defense site for the tower, but Poole said she believes the county might run into a historic preservation problem.

The county received a $175,000 state grant this year to repair the Civil Defense Building and the Courthouse, and part of the plan is to remove a total of eight antennas from atop the two buildings.

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