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Panel backs purchase of gas station

LOCKPORT -- Niagara County is planning to buy an old gas station near the Trott Access Center in Niagara Falls for use as a parking lot.

The County Legislature's Public Works Committee on Monday approved the $75,000 purchase of the land at 1101 11th St. from the Fasciano family for $75,000.

Some committee members were nervous about possible contamination on the site, but Public Works Commissioner Kevin P. O'Brien said the county will conduct an environmental investigation, and if the news is bad, the deal is off.

"[Underground gas] tanks have been removed, according to the City of Niagara Falls," O'Brien said. "I just want to make sure we control the process."

Legislature Chairman Clyde L. Burmaster asked, "[Is it] legal for us to go on private property and perform an investigation at taxpayers' expense?"

"It's a public purpose," County Manager Gregory D. Lewis replied.

The committee decided the approval of the purchase is conditional on research determining the legality of the county paying for the probe. A report is due when the committee meets again during a break in next Tuesday's Legislature meeting.

Legislator Harry J. Apolito, D-Lockport, said the sellers should pay for the investigation, butO'Brien was against that.

"I am not going to buy a Flintkote," O'Brien vowed, referring to the Lockport hazardous waste site the county foreclosed on because of unpaid property taxes. "If there's a problem, I want to spend as much study money as I can to find out what I've got."

The purchase would provide another 50 or 60 parking spaces for Trott, where the county has moved its Niagara Falls Motor Vehicle Bureau, worsening an already congested parking situation.

O'Brien said the full Legislature won't be asked to vote on the purchase until Sept. 4, which will allow time for the investigation.

The committee also approved the annual renewal of Niagara County Community College's lease on classroom space at Trott. Terms are unchanged.

On another topic, the committee learned Cornell Cooperative Extension is recommending the county tear out 500 to 600 peach trees in Bond Lake Park on Lower Mountain Road in Lewiston.

The trees, formerly tended by the late Gerald P. Helmich under a special state law, are now abandoned. The letter from John Farfaglia, an Extension horticulturist, said plum pox virus, a disease dangerous to pitted fruit trees, has been found in the county.

Burmaster said he learned that there are only two known infected trees in the county, both on Lake Road in Porter, and a quarantine area has been established.

The committee decided to find out how much it would cost to bulldoze the trees or spray them against the virus.

Burmaster said he was reluctant to destroy the trees if they weren't infected.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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