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Lancaster to build police HQ by old one; Abandons plan to convert former plant on Walden

Lancaster plans to build a new police station next to its current Pavement Road headquarters, departing from a previous plan to renovate a controversial Walden Avenue building the town purchased in 2003.

A handful of vocal residents on Monday criticized the Town Board for its previous purchase of the 64,000-square-foot former furniture plant on Walden, which has housed the department's Detective Bureau but otherwise has been relatively unused.

"Eight years of delay, and the costs keep increasing," resident Lee Chowaniec said. "Fiscal irresponsibility to the max."

Four residents said they did not believe a proposed $500,000 shooting range was necessary because a range already exists in Lancaster and another exists in Depew.

Lancaster Police Chief Gerald J. Gill Jr. said the range would help his officers serve residents and protect themselves. In response to Chowaniec's statement that Lancaster was "not the City of Buffalo," Gill said more suburban and rural police officers die from gunshot wounds in the line of duty than urban officers.

"These are our protectors," resident Paul Nosbisch added. "We've got to give them what we need."

Supervisor Robert H. Giza said the range would be built.

The exchange came less than a week after the Town Board held a sparsely attended meeting in which it unanimously gave the new project a negative environmental declaration -- meaning it would not significantly harm the environment -- and voted to increase the project's bond amount from $8 million to $10 million.

Giza said the town increased the amount to be "on the safe side" with project costs.

"It probably won't be that much," Giza told The Buffalo News. "We want to make sure we have enough to cover everything."

Resident Mike Fronczak asked why the public wasn't allowed to comment at last week's meeting.

"We were told we don't have to, legally," Giza said.

Costs for the nearly 27,000-square-foot new building are estimated at $7.4 million, according to Gwen Howard, project manager with the design firm Foit-Albert Associates. Howard said additional construction costs often arise with similar projects.

The 11,000-square-foot building at 525 Pavement Road currently houses the town's Police Department and courts in the same complex as its Highway and Recreation departments and town archives. Officials said the former military site, which included barracks and rocket silos, has outlived its usefulness and was never meant to be a police site.

"It's long overdue," Gill said. "I think people recognize the need [for] it."

The town purchased the former Colecraft furniture plant in 2003 for $1.63 million. The 64,000-square-foot plant has sat mostly empty since then, housing the Detective Bureau and becoming the subject of a lawsuit and tension between town officials and a handful of vocal residents.

Resident Dan Beutler, a member of the group that filed the 2004 lawsuit, said he believed that Giza maneuvered to purchase the building without Town Board approval. Giza dismissed that notion, calling it an "outright lie" and saying he gave public tours of the building.

Town officials previously blamed the lawsuit for the delay in action on the building, a claim the residents denied.


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