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LOCKPORT – The Niagara County Legislature last week endorsed a $25 million enlargement of the library and some classrooms at Niagara County Community College.

The resolution committed the county to providing $12.5 million in support for the project – sort of.

NCCC President James P. Klyczek said the money doesn’t have to come from the county treasury. The college is free to try to raise the funds wherever it can, as it successfully did for NCCC’s culinary arts institute in downtown Niagara Falls.

He said the college already is in touch with the Oishei and Statler foundations and may seek funding through the state’s Regional Economic Development Council.

The resolution does not actually commit the county to constructing the Learning Commons project, as it’s known.

But it did enable Klyczek to meet a deadline to get the project before the State University of New York system for inclusion in SUNY’s 2013 funding request to the State Legislature.

“It’s like a place-holder,” said County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz, who did not include anything for the NCCC project in the 2013 county budget.

SUNY would provide half of the cost if the project is built, but its $12.5 million would sit in Albany until the county provides its share.

Klyczek said the commercial and economic development aspects of the culinary institute made it easier to find outside money.

“It’s been made very clear to [Klyczek], we expect him to do what he did with the culinary institute, not Empire State Development [money] but foundations,” said Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, a member of the NCCC board of trustees.

Klyczek said that with low interest rates for borrowing, “I don’t think building it will ever be more affordable.” The Learning Commons plan has been on NCCC’s radar screen for several years. It entails connecting the library to Building E by building over the courtyard that currently separates the two buildings.

“The phrase implies the library’s walls have opened up, instead of just being a place to study where people say ‘shush,’ ” Klyczek said.

“There have been presentations, feasibility studies, and then it was put on the back burner because the culinary institute was front and center,” Ross said. Only half of the price tag covers new construction.

The library needs work anyway, Klyczek said. Stone is falling off the walls of the 40-year-old building, and 20 feet of decking closest to the library have been cordoned off for safety reasons.

The project also includes the enlargement of 12 classrooms in Building E to permit larger class sizes, which would be “more efficient,” Klyczek said.

The average class size at NCCC is 23 students, Klyczek said. An arbitrator ruled this year, in the face of a protest from the NCCC Faculty Association, that there is no upper limit to class sizes at the college.

Klyczek said it will take 24 to 30 months to construct the Learning Commons once the money is in hand.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com