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Lewis legislators still split on building project

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LOWVILLE — Despite having more concrete numbers, Lewis County legislators remain split on whether to proceed with a proposed $10 million office building project on outer Stowe Street.

“We’re caught between a rock and a hard place,” Legislature Vice Chairman William J. Burke, R-West Lowville, said at a meeting Monday morning, noting that both pro- and anti-construction arguments are compelling.

Following about an hour’s worth of discussion on the matter, Chairman Michael A. Tabolt, R-Croghan, encouraged his fellow lawmakers to “play with the numbers a little more” but admitted he wasn’t sure exactly when the board will be ready to make a final decision.

Apparent low bids for construction of the project came in last week at around $9 million, resulting in at least a $10 million price tag when contingency and project management are figured in.

According to projections compiled by county fiscal advisor Venesky and Co., state Department of Social Services funding would cover $5.2 million of the project, or more than one-third of the $14.7 million cost for principal and interest over 20 years.

County Attorney Richard J. Graham said that a state Environmental Quality Review and bonding resolution should be able to be completed in time for the Legislature’s Oct. 1 meeting. However, even if those actions are approved, the project would not move forward unless the board chooses to award construction contracts, he said.

Legislators in March voted only 6-4 to put the two-story office building project out to bid. And, while most lawmakers expressed that the bid total was a good outcome, several suggested that it hadn’t changed their minds on the feasibility of the project.

“I voted no before, and I’ll vote no again,” said Legislator Philip C. Hathway, R-Harrisville.

“Our sole job is to do what’s right for the county for the long haul,” countered Legislator Richard C. Lucas, R-Barnes Corners. “I think this is prudent.”

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