LOCKPORT - The Niagara County Legislature voted Tuesday to set a public hearing for 6:45 p.m. Oct. 2 on the repeal of the county's sex-offender buffer zone law.
In 2008, the county banned Level 2 and 3 sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of any school, park, playground or other place where children gather.
However, the county's law was stricter than the state's 1,000-foot rule, which applies only to Level 3 sex offenders who are on probation or parole.
Judges across the state have begun overturning local buffer zone laws that are tougher than the state law, making the county's law constitutionally untenable, according to its original sponsor, Legislator Paul B. Wojtaszek, R-North Tonawanda.
"We modeled our law on other laws around the state and the nation that we thought would pass constitutional muster," Wojtaszek said, adding that he had thought the county was merely filling a gap by imposing restrictions on offenders whose probation or parole terms had expired.
"I regretfully had to concede that if we continued to enforce this law, we would face legal liability," Wojtaszek said.
Tuesday, the Legislature approved a $16.5 million package of projects and purchases, including $6.65 million worth of borrowing.
The projects include a completely new telephone system for county government, which at $2.75 million is the largest project in the 10-year bond issue to be floated by County Treasurer Kyle R. Andrews.
It involves a new phone for every extension in county government, about 1,900, according to Information Technology Director Larry L. Helwig.
The second-largest county expenditure, at $1.57 million, is the reconstruction of Stone Road in the Town of Lockport.
Other bonded items will include a $750,000 evidence and vehicle storage building for the Sheriff's Office, to be erected behind the County Jail, and $600,000 for the purchase of Highway Department equipment, including two dump trucks, two roadside mowers, a skid-steer loader and a front-end loader.
Also in the borrowing package are $400,000 to replace an elevator in the jail; $210,000 for the reconstruction of Upper Mountain Road between Thrall and Townline roads in Cambria; and $365,000 toward the reconstruction of Lincoln Avenue between Beattie Avenue and Akron Road in Lockport.
The last project's total cost is estimated at $7.3 million, but state and federal aid will pay for almost all of it. Work is expected to begin in 2014.
The capital projects package includes several other projects whose cost will be paid through county reserve funds or federal aid.
They include $750,000 worth of pavement maintenance work across the county; $150,000 to rehabilitate the county's fire training towers; $200,000 for replacement equipment in the jail; $150,000 for building improvements; and $75,000 worth of park improvements countywide.
The federally aided projects are two $300,000 bridge repairs, on the Carmen Road Bridge over Golden Hill Creek in Somerset and the Youngstown Road Bridge over Six Mile Creek in Porter. The county will have to pay $70,000 toward the Carmen Road project and $110,000 toward the Youngstown Road work.
In another matter, Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, announced that the ProAct prescription drug insurance plan, offered by a private company sanctioned by the county, now has about 5,000 participants who have saved a collective $275,000 on drug costs since the program started last year.
The ProAct card enables bearers to obtain discounts on medications even if they have no insurance or if their insurance doesn't cover a particular prescription.