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Niagara County's strategic plan for defense against terrorism and other potential disaster should be complete by June, a County Legislature committee learned Wednesday.

Elizabeth Santacrose, a staff attorney with Ecology and Environment of Lancaster, told the Community Safety and Security Committee that her company is now reviewing a list of critical infrastructure in the county and trying to assess the gap between local capabilities and the potential vulnerability of the sites.

Niagara County considers itself a prime target because of its three international bridges, several chemical plants, two giant power plants and the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.

Ecology and Environment was hired earlier this year on a $183,808 contract to produce the plan.

County Manager Gregory D. Lewis said the plan's conclusions will be used to create a formula for distributing state and federal homeland security aid to municipalities and fire companies.

The county has been pushing to be designated an urban security area of its own by the federal government.

At present, Niagara is lumped in with Erie County, which controls how much federal homeland security aid is allowed to be sent to Niagara. Niagara County felt it received too little this year.

Santacrose, however, said that a new round of federal funding is coming and that Ecology and Environment won't wait until its report is done to advise the county on ways to try to tap it.

On another topic, Sheriff Thomas A. Beilein told the committee his department is about to apply for more state grant money to acquire equipment to detect the location of 911 calls on cellular telephones.

The county received $1.5 million last year, which was more than Beilein expected. He praised Capt. Thomas Beatty for doing the work on the grant.

Beilein also said he expects a renewal of last year's U.S. Justice Department grant, which is paying for the Sheriff's Department helicopter.

It had been grounded after being cut out of the budget two years ago.

The committee agreed to use $10,000 in money forfeited by drug defendants to pay for helicopter insurance.


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