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Lewis legislators give nod to bowling alley and radios

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LOWVILLE — Lewis County legislators agreed Tuesday evening to reinstate a $1 million purchase agreement for a bowling alley, in addition to authorizing a contract for an $11 million capital emergency radio system.

Legislators briefly discussed the resolution to repeal the last board’s decision to rescind the Lewis Lanes purchase agreement before deciding unanimously to reinstate it.

The rescinding of the purchase agreement by the former board in November prompted a lawsuit from bowling alley owners Richard E. and Derek Crouse. While the owners were not successful in the suit because of the manner in which it was filed, an avenue for potential legal action against the county to compel the transaction remains.

The building, just outside the Lowville village limits, would be reworked to house several county departments.

The contract contains three make-or-break conditions: An appraisal must meet or exceed the purchase price; an engineer’s report must declare the property suitable for the county’s office space needs, and an acceptable environmental review must be received.

Before the meeting, Legislator Neil H. Pepper, R-Brantingham, was asked if the resolution was a way for the county to attempt to exit the contract in another manner.

“It’s not legal maneuvering,” he said. “We’re genuinely taking a look at it to see if it is right for the county.”

After the meeting, during which two people spoke out against the purchase, Mr. Pepper said if the Crouse family felt it had made a mistake in selling, it could look at the contract from the county’s side, too.

“We’re just really trying to do the right thing here,” he said.

Also up for discussion, the capital emergency radio system came as a pair of resolutions: one to appropriate the funding, the other to authorize a contract with E.F. Johnson Technologies Inc. to provide voice, alert paging and dispatch monitor radio systems, as well as hardware and software for the emergency communications center.

The completed project is estimated to cost about $11 million, with more than half to be paid for by a homeland security grant of $6 million.

Legislators agreed to accept the E.F Johnson bid, noting that it was not only the lowest, but the most compliant with the needs of the county, offering the most radio coverage of all submitted proposals.

“This will give us 95 percent coverage. We’ve got 50 percent now,” said Legislator Philip C. Hathway, R-Harrisville. “This action affects everyone in the county. It’s quite different than what we usually do.”

Though the project is moving forward, the funding of it was tabled.

The debate among legislators comes down to how much money from fund balance and how much from guaranteed wind farm money should be used.

Complicating the matter is an uncertain final price, as more grants are still possible for fire departments within the county.

In addition, some portions of the project have discretionary elements, such as the number of radios to be distributed, which can’t be determined yet. In one year, many of those factors will be determined.

Legislators decided to table the decision for a month to give more time to review the options, indicating they could do a short-term financial plan and revisit the matter in a year’s time when numbers will be more concrete.

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