BY JOE OLENICK email@example.com
Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — The Niagara County Legislature voted late Tuesday to declare roughly 67 acres of county-owned land on Davison Road as surplus property, which could start the process of selling it.
The resolution passed along party lines, with just the four-person Democrat minority voting no. Legislators Dennis F. Virtuoso, Jason A. Zona, Owen T. Steed and Mark J. Grozio, all Niagara Falls Democrats, voted against the measure.
The Davison Road property, which used to be the home of Niagara County Social Services and, before that, the county infirmary, has gone unused since 2003. R.B. Mac of Lockport was close to purchasing the 17-acre property last year but that deal fell through. Christian Academy of Western New York was also interested in the property at one time.
The surplus declaration, needed in order to sell the land, does not include both of the county’s records storage buildings, the An-Jo League baseball diamonds, an old nearby cemetery and the golf course storage and irrigation buildings.
If the land was sold, the buyer would have five years to redevelop the front portion before taking ownership of the land to the east.
Bill Rutland, president of the county’s American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 182 union, told lawmakers that the property can’t be sold without permission from the State Legislature. He claimed the property is park land, for which any action with it needs approval from State Legislature, and the county should have asked the community about what to do with it.
“This property belongs to the community,” Rutland said. “Niagara County can’t declare it surplus and dispose of it.”
Rutland said there had been talk of building housing for sex offenders on the Davison Road property. Legislators denied that, as Majority Leader Richard E. Updegrove, R-Lockport, said that was the first he’d heard of the rumor.
“That’s certainly something that’s not going to happen,” he said.
In another matter, legislators sent to committee a resolution calling for new bidding on storage space for voting machines and equipment.
The Legislature’s Democratic minority introduced the resolution Tuesday night before lawmakers voted to send the matter to the Administration committee. That committee meets at 6 p.m. Monday in the legislative chambers.
For the last six years, the county has been storing the machines in a 28,000-square-foot former mattress factory at 1961 Transit Road in Newfane, owned by real estate developer David Ulrich. The $650,000, five-year lease would renew automatically every Aug. 1 unless one side or the other gives notice to cancel the lease 120 days in advance.
And Ulrich gave that notice in a letter to County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz last week.
Before being moved, voting machines and county records were being kept at the Davison Road county property. The move was necessary, county officials said, because the building is dilapidated and leaking.
There was discussion at the committee level of starting the bidding process last summer, but nothing appeared before the Legislature as it was too late in the year to give notice.