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Land in Lockport is 'shovel ready'

Two fields on Lockport Road are to be certified as "shovel-ready" development sites, Niagara County Economic Development Director Samuel M. Ferraro said last week.

The County Legislature approved a $223,500 contract with the Wendel Duchscherer engineering firm from Amherst to do the work needed to apply to two state agencies to place the fields on the list of priority development sites.

One site is a 71-acre field at Lockport and Comstock roads in Cambria.

It was announced in 2007 as the location for a proposed HSBC Bank data center, but HSBC decided not to build the center and the farmer who owns the land went back to planting crops there.

The other site covers 142 acres on Lockport Road in Pendleton between Bear Ridge Road and Campbell Boulevard.

In January, National Grid awarded the county a $300,000 grant to pay to hire a firm to analyze the two sites.

Ferraro said Wendel will carry out a site survey, collect data, perform a Phase 1 environmental investigation and draft conceptual plans, all leading to the application for the state shovel-ready list.

Ferraro said one other site could be added to the list later: a field at Lockport and Packard roads in the Town of Niagara.

The 220-acre site, owned by Smith Brothers Construction Co., was touted in 1998 as a contender for a computer chip fabrication plant for which the state was competing.

Nothing ever came of the "chip fab" plan.

In other matters, the Legislature paid another $26,483 to the Webster Szanyi law firm for its work on a lawsuit against the New York Power Authority, bringing the total spent to $216,206.

The county is trying to reverse last year's $544 million Power Authority donation of surpluses to balance the state budget, asserting that if the authority has that much unused money, it must be overcharging for electricity from the Niagara Power Project.

Chairman William L. Ross said the county would be willing to settle the suit for "money and megawatts" from the Power Authority.

However, the county has pledged not to spend any money on the suit other than its Seneca Niagara Casino revenue, of which $262,456 remains.

The Power Authority doesn't have to hire outside counsel, as it is using its own salaried lawyers backed up by the state Attorney General's Office.

The Legislature ratified County Manager Gregory D. Lewis' appointment of David Watroba, the county labor relations manager, as interim director of the Office for the Aging.

The appointment, effective July 1, won't change Watroba's salary.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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