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LOCKPORT – Construction may begin next month on the first of six new radio towers to support Niagara County’s new emergency radio system.

County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz disclosed the schedule as the County Legislature approved a $117,127 cost overrun on a $10 million contract with Motorola Systems to erect the new antennas and supply new radios for police and fire personnel across the county.

Glatz said the cost overrun was caused by additional soil testing to make sure all the tower sites are stable enough to support the weight of the structures.

Glatz said it is hoped that all six antennas will be completed by Dec. 1, 2014.

The county initiated the project in response to a Federal Communications Commission mandate to have the county’s emergency voice and data systems take up less space on the broadcast spectrum, a process called “narrowbanding.”

Legislator David E. Godfrey, R-Wilson, said at one point that the cost overrun would have been about $320,000, but Motorola and Kimball Associates, the county’s consulting firm on the project, worked to reduce it.

Godfrey said extra costs resulted from problems with obstacles blocking transmissions from the planned new North Tonawanda tower and the resulting plan to make an existing antenna atop Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center taller in order to keep the network functioning.

Godfrey said that another cost was a new $35,000 emergency generator for Terry’s Corners Fire Company in Royalton, in lieu of a lease for hosting one of the new antennas. Also, some soil conditions required more grounding circuitry than expected, Godfrey said.

“These, I would consider costs that were anticipated but were unknown [in terms of exact cost] at the bid time,” Godfrey said.

Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, voted yes but was skeptical. “How do you choose a site without knowing whether a tower can go there in the first place?” he asked.

Godfrey noted that a couple of the county’s preferred sites had to be changed.

Glatz said the first tower to be built will be either the Lockport tower at the city’s composting plant or the one in Newfane at the former mattress factory on Transit Road, where the county stores its voting machines.

On another topic, the Legislature unanimously passed a Democratic resolution asking Albany to enact a law imposing a residency requirement for welfare applicants. At present, those who move into New York are eligible to apply for immediate welfare assistance.

“Enough is enough in this state,” Virtuoso said. “And I’m calling on both sides of the aisle.”

In the last 20 months, 315 newcomers have applied for benefits in the county, costing it $5.5 million.

Majority Leader Richard E. Updegrove, R-Lockport, noted that he has sponsored similar resolutions in the past.

He said a resolution also should be passed urging the abolition of the Safety Net welfare program in New York, which allows welfare payments to continue after the five-year federal limit expires.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com