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Town of Lewiston sues Niagara County over location of radio tower

LEWISTON – The Town of Lewiston followed through this week on its threat to sue Niagara County over the construction of a radio tower at Upper Mountain Fire Company.

Attorneys for the town filed suit in State Supreme Court, demanding that the 220-foot steel tower be removed and relocated. It was built “without regard to the safety of the residents of Lewiston,” court papers say.

The tower was built in July as part of a new emergency radio and data system for the county’s first responders. The system also is to include new or refurbished towers at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, the North Tonawanda Fire Department, Niagara County Jail in Lockport, the City of Lockport composting plant, Terry’s Corners Fire Company in Royalton and the former Lockport Mattress factory in Newfane.

The county decided to spend $10 million on a new system as a means of complying with a Federal Communications Commission mandate called “narrowbanding”: having voice and data transmissions take up less space on the radio broadcast spectrum.

The system also was aimed at improving radio coverage in some remote or difficult areas of the county. Among them is the portion of Lewiston just below the Niagara Escarpment and the Niagara Gorge. Those areas are supposed to be taken care of by the Upper Mountain tower.

However, the town asserts that no one from the county or the fire company ever sought town permission to build the tower, and no building permit ever was issued.

Nevertheless, the tower went up over the weekend of July 25-27, starting Friday and ending Sunday, a move that the lawsuit asserts was timed to avoid hassles from town officials.

The town issued a stop-work order, and the county went before the town Zoning Board of Appeals on Sept. 12 in an effort to get that lifted. Instead, the town building inspector sent Upper Mountain a code violation notice Sept. 23.

The town has a law that requires a clear 500-foot radius around a tower. That “fall zone” rule is violated by the Upper Mountain tower, the suit alleges.

Besides the town, there are five individual plaintiffs, all of whom live on Upper Mountain Road, within 100 feet of the tower, according to the lawsuit.

They are Barry W. Deal, Robert M. Nablo, William R. Bradfield, Peter A. Fortino and Jason J. Schnettler.

Besides the county and the Upper Mountain Fire Company, other defendants include Motorola Solutions, the county’s hardware vendor for the new system, and L.R. Kimball Associates, the consulting firm that helped design the new system.

The suit was filed by attorneys from the Buffalo law firm Lippes Mathias Wexter Friedman, including Town Attorney Mark C. Davis.