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Lewis County office project information posted on Internet

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LOWVILLE — Information about Lewis County’s office building project is accessible at the county’s website.

“We’re not trying to hide anything,” said Legislature Chairman Michael A. Tabolt, R-Croghan. “We’d just as soon let people know what we’re up against.”

The PowerPoint presentation from Tuesday night’s informational session at the Lowville fire hall, attended by more than 150 people, was posted so residents not at the meeting can access the information, Mr. Tabolt said.

“It’s a predicament that we’ve got to take action on,” he said. “We can’t just sit back and do nothing. It’s getting to the point that we’ve got to put people and equipment somewhere.”

Mr. Tabolt said he was a bit leery of putting out some of the cost estimates, particularly the very rough $7 million to $9 million projected cost of buying and renovating the three buildings in which the county now leases space.

“We don’t want people to jump to conclusions that our numbers are set in stone,” he said.

However, legislators want people to realize why the three-year-old, $11 million project, on which roughly $500,000 already has been spent, is being considered, Mr. Tabolt said.

A prime reason is that a few buildings in which the county leases office space are for sale. In particular, the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services is moving forward with plans to lease and eventually buy the former St. Peter’s Catholic School on Shady Avenue, which now houses the county Board of Elections, Office for the Aging and highway and solid waste administration.

“There’s a chance we’re going to be looking for at least temporary housing for the people in there,” even if plans for a new two-story office building on outer Stowe Street progress, Mr. Tabolt said.

That will be difficult, given the dearth of suitable office space available in the area, he said.

The 45,000-square-foot building proposed would house the Department of Social Services on the second floor, while the first floor could be split among the three offices now in St. Peter’s and the Department of Motor Vehicles. The county’s Public Health Agency, mental health administration and 911 dispatch center could be located in the new building or in space vacated by DSS in its current building, also on outer Stowe Street.

Those departments combined now use 31,000 square feet of space but need 50,000 square feet, county officials say.

Lawmakers have indicated that dispatch likely will remain in the adjacent Public Safety Building, despite the cramped space, until the county can afford a planned upgrade of the emergency radio system.

County officials were eyeing a VHF system projected to cost $6 million to $11 million, but it now appears they may need to install a UHF system — projected as high as $18 million — to qualify for Homeland Security funding. The county applied for grant funding last year but did not receive any money when the awards were announced earlier this month.

The PowerPoint presentation can be accessed by clicking on the “Lewis County Proposed Office Building Project” link on the home page of the county website: www.lewiscountyny.org.

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