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LOCKPORT - The Niagara County Legislature Tuesday is expected to approve a $16.5 million package of major projects, including a new county government telephone system and several road and bridge projects.
Seven of the 14 projects, totaling $6.65 million, will be paid with borrowed money.
The remainder will be funded from county reserve funds or state and federal aid.
The capital improvements will be carried out over the next couple of years. The most expensive is the $7.3 million reconstruction of Lincoln Avenue from Beattie Avenue to Akron Road in Lockport, but most of that will be state and federal money. The county's cost of $365,000 will be part of the bond issue.
County Treasurer Kyle R. Andrews said he anticipates floating a 10-year bond at an annual interest rate of about 2.01 percent.
He said the county will have to spend about $740,000 a year in principal and interest to pay off the bonds. They will be added to the county's current general fund debt of $15.8 million.
"The market's fluid, but it's definitely a good time to borrow money if you have to," Andrews said, pointing to record-low interest rates.
Information Technology Director Larry L. Helwig said the $2,75 million phone system, part of the bond package, is required because Nortel, which provided the current system, went out of business a couple of years ago.
"My guess is, in a year or so, we'll have to go to eBay [to find parts]," Helwig said. "We have an outdated, antiquated phone system. . We've got over 1,900 phones in the county. We have 70 network switches we've got to replace."
Ronco Communications is being paid about $50,000 a year to service the phones, Helwig said. He said the new phones from Cisco Systems will be tied into the county computer system.
Although Cisco will finance the purchase at zero percent over five years, Legislator John Syracuse, R-Newfane, complained that maintenance is included in the contract only for two years, and after that maintaining the new system will cost $100,000 a year.
Other projects in the bond package include $1.57 million toward the $2.54 million reconstruction of Stone Road in Lockport; $750,000 for a new Sheriff's Office evidence and vehicle storage building behind the jail; $400,000 to replace the elevator in Building 1 at the jail; $210,000 toward the $300,000 reconstruction of Upper Mountain Road between Townline and Thrall roads in Cambria; and $600,000 for Highway Department equipment: a dump truck, a skid-steer, a front-end loader and two roadside mowers.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com