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LOCKPORT – The cost of constructing five new towers for Niagara County’s emergency radio service will exceed the contracted amount, but by less than first feared.

County Legislator David E. Godfrey, chairman of the Community Safety and Security Committee, said Tuesday that the cost overrun will be about $200,000 above the $10 million contract limit. That’s down from the $330,000 previously projected.

County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz said efforts are continuing with the contractor, Motorola Solutions, to push the cost down further. However, he said the county will have to fund any overrun; there are no provisions to make Motorola absorb the cost.

“We’ve reviewed those documents,” Glatz said. “This is a change order the Legislature will have to vote on.”

Glatz said he will likely recommend that the county take the money out of its surplus.

Godfrey complained that the source of the overrun was what he considers inadequate staff work by Motorola in planning the height of the five towers.

Subsequently, it was discovered that three of them – in Lewiston, North Tonawanda and Royalton – would have to be built substantially taller than called for in the original plans, because of obstacles Motorola staffers didn’t notice when they made the plans.

“I find it technically unacceptable when you have professionals like Motorola,” said Godfrey, R-Wilson.

The new towers were supposed to be 180 feet tall, except for the one next to the City of Lockport composting plant, which was to be 280 feet because of the need to send signals over the nearby Niagara Escarpment.

However, Motorola’s revised plan called for a 230-foot tower at Upper Mountain Fire Company in Lewiston; a 200-foot antenna at Terry’s Corners Fire Company in Royalton; and a 305-foot tower at the North Tonawanda Fire Department.

The problem at Upper Mountain was high-tension power lines; in Royalton, a tall tree on private property in the way of the microwave transmission; and at the Niagara Falls Praxair plant, a smokestack blocked transmissions from North Tonawanda to an existing antenna atop Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.

“I understand you can see that smokestack if you stand on the roof at Niagara Falls Memorial,” Godfrey said.

The proposal to build a tower more than 300 feet high in North Tonawanda meant it would have to be lit as an warning to aircraft, according to Federal Aviation Administration safety regulations.

But through work by Motorola and Kimball Associates, the county’s consulting firm on the project, the North Tonawanda tower now has a planned height of 290 to 295 feet, avoiding the mandatory warning lights. It could be reduced further, to about 280 feet.

Glatz said this was accomplished by planning to increase the height of the medical center antenna. However, that merely shifted some construction expense from the North Tonawanda site to Niagara Falls.

Work has not begun on constructing any of the towers, which the county planned as a means of improving radio coverage while complying with a Federal Communications Commission mandate that its emergency voice and data transmissions must occupy less space on the broadcast spectrum, a process called “narrowbanding.”

The county already received a one-year extension from the FCC, because the job was supposed to have been in 2012. Godfrey said another extension will be needed, into 2014. “We will not be in our acceptance phase this year,” he said.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com