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Lewis legislators narrowly approve office building project

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LOWVILLE — Lewis County legislators on Wednesday narrowly approved their long-discussed office building project, as well as securing alternative space for a few offices that may soon be displaced.

Lawmakers voted 6-4 to go out to bid on a two-story, 45,000-square-foot building on outer Stowe Street, with Legislators Philip C. Hathway, R-Harrisville; Charles R. Fanning, R-Copenhagen; Paul M. Stanford, D-Watson; and John O. Boyd, D-New Bremen, opposed.

“I just can’t support doing this,” Mr. Hathway said of the estimated $11 million project. “I just think taxpayers are overwhelmed.”

Mr. Fanning added that the state and federal governments are already engaging in plenty of deficit spending. “Are we putting ourselves in the same boat?” he said.

However, project supporters suggested that putting up a new building would be the best long-term move by ultimately eliminating lease payments, consolidating county offices into a few major complexes rather than scattering them all over the village and utilizing $4.5 million to $5 million in state Department of Social Services funding that would not be available for non-construction options.

“We are here to make decisions for the county of Lewis for the long haul,” said Legislator Richard C. Lucas, R-Barnes Corners.

“Either way, the taxpayers will pay for this,” said Legislature Chairman Michael A. Tabolt, R-Croghan, suggesting he would rather hand the next generation a new building than a bunch of lease receipts and, possibly, remodeled buildings that don’t really fit county space needs.

Legislators on Wednesday also voted 10-0 to, for the next couple of years, rent space in the Lowville Commons on South State Street for the Board of Elections and Office for the Aging and at the LeRoy Nichols Building at the Lewis County Fairgrounds for highway and solid waste administration.

Those offices are currently housed in the former St. Peter’s Catholic School on Shady Avenue. However, the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services is moving forward with plans to lease and eventually buy that building.

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