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The public will help decide whether a private company proposing to build a $2.8 million medical facility adjoining Mount St. Mary's Hospital in Lewiston deserves tax breaks.

The company, L&L Properties, went to the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency on Thursday for the second time in a month asking for sales tax exemptions on construction materials and other items.

And for a second time, the agency balked at giving its approval.

"They don't have to justify the need for this," said David R. Chamberlain, first vice chairman of the NCIDA board.

"The question we have to ask ourselves is: Since less than 50 percent of the facility will be used by the hospital, do we want to grant tax exemptions to a couple of doctors making a profit? I think they should do it on their own and not on the backs of the taxpayers."

James Taylor, a prospective tenant in the new building, added his voice to those of the Town of Lewiston and the hospital itself supporting the medical building.

"For years, Mount St. Mary's has lost patients to Erie County because of the lack of facilities," Taylor told the board.

Mount St. Mary's would use 11,000 square feet of the 28,000-square-foot building, which would include a 5,000-square-foot facility for radiology. The project is six months behind schedule.

"I think this medical facility is something that's needed for the hospital and the community," said IDA Chairman William G. Mayne.

Board member Robert R. Villani agreed with that, but asked, "Why is the hospital not doing this themselves?"

The answer to that was simple -- the hospital doesn't have the money, Taylor noted.

After much disagreement, the IDA board decided to hold a public meeting to decide the issue. The meeting will be held in Lewiston after the parties concerned have been given the usual 30 days' notice, said Larry D. Witul, assistant director of the IDA.

In other business Thursday, the agency approved recommendations made a month ago to grant tax cuts to drug packager Promex Medical to spend $1.6 million renovating and expanding its Buffalo Avenue plant. The project will add 140 jobs that would bring an estimated annual payroll of more than $4 million into the Niagara region, said IDA Executive Director John R. Simon.

The IDA also handed tax concessions to a Colorado firm, Cherokee Environmental, to build a $2 million industrial building on the site of the former Forest Glen mobile home park straddling the City of Niagara Falls and the Town of Niagara. The 40,000-square-foot building will be the first of four proposed industrial facilities on the 28-acre site.

The 150 people who lived in the mobile home park were evacuated 10 years ago after toxic sludge bubbled up in back yards. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. used the area as a dumping ground for chemical waste in the 1960s and 1970s.

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