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Falls Council backs construction of new airport terminal building

The City Council drew up a last-minute resolution Monday night to support a $27.5 million project to build a new terminal at Niagara Falls International Airport, despite a request to take a second look at the facility's size.

The Council unanimously approved a short statement written moments before the end of its meeting to express its support for the construction project.

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority is slated to award construction contracts for the terminal later this month.

The Council's support was not a requirement for the NFTA to move forward but came after the Council held a public hearing Monday night to allow residents to air concerns about the project.

City and state lawmakers have agreed to use $14 million of the local share of slot machine revenues from the Seneca Niagara Casino to pay for part of the project.

One speaker, Ken Hamilton, urged Council members to ask that the designs for the building be reviewed by an independent expert to determine whether the building will be the right size for future needs.

"Is this the right terminal at the right time at the right place?" Hamilton asked. "I don't know that and neither do you."

Three other speakers, including two members of the building trades and carpenters unions, asked the Council to support the project.

Construction is expected to be completed in 2009 on the terminal, which will be three times the size of the existing building. William R. Vanecek, the NFTA's director of aviation, told the Council at an afternoon work session that the designs were drawn up to process all passengers boarding a Boeing 747 aircraft within an hour and a half.

Vanecek said the new Niagara Falls airport could function better in some ways than the NFTA's Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Cheektowaga.

"We are undersized in certain areas in [Cheektowaga], and we didn't want to make that same mistake in Niagara Falls," Vanecek said.

Also Monday, the Council questioned the status of ongoing negotiations over construction contracts for a project to build a $45.1 million new city courthouse and police facility. Representatives from the state court system have threatened to sanction the city if the project does not move forward.

While Mayor Vince Anello characterized the negotiations as "close," representatives from the development team led by Ciminelli Development Co. and Largo Real Estate Advisors disagreed.

"We're really not making any progress at all," said Paul Ciminelli. "We've never been further away from a deal."

e-mail: djewell@buffnews.com

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