August 14, 2009

Lewis To Taxpayers: Drop Dead

Yesterday, Niagara Times broke news that County Manager Greg Lewis was misusing Niagara County's lobbying firm to prop up his plans for a palatial $42 million DPW garage despite efforts by Lockport Legislator Tony Nemi that would allow the county to take over a former New York State DOT garage for $1.

Now, even more disturbing news comes to us.

When Nemi and fellow Legislator Keith McNall won unanimous backing for three resolutions that effectively dashed Lewis’s dreams of a $100 million county office campus last month, we thought Lewis’ very expensive vision was dead. After all, the Nemi-McNall plan was brilliantly simple—and extremely cost-effective. In addition to acquiring the DOT facility, McNall convinced his fellow lawmakers to reject $300,000 in expensive upgrades to the decrepit Shaw Building, and instead look at housing the County Health Department in downtown Lockport at a city-owned office facility.

We certainly endorsed that idea—after all, why put $300,000 of the taxpayers’ hard-earned wages into a building the county has no intention of keeping?

Well, it seems Lewis is now working to force the Legislature’s hand. Sources inside county government alerted us that Lewis had County Historian Kate Emerson and her staff compiling a detailed history of the Shaw Building all day yesterday.

Why would Lewis ask for such a thing?

We can only speculate, of course, but by having the building, which pre-dates World War I, declared a historic landmark, Lewis would make it virtually impossible for the county to abandon it. County lawmakers would have little choice but to spend the $300,000 in upgrades this year—and much more to replace windows next year (Lewis and the DPW’s next plan for the building) and so on. And please, take our word for it, there is NOTHING historically special about this ugly, utilitarian government building, and if you don’t believe us, click here.

If Lewis succeeds in these machinations, forget about ever unloading Shaw. Because of Article 14 of New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Law and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, if Lewis succeeds in having Shaw declared a “historic” building, the county would have to go through years of paperwork and red tape and archaeological digs before it could be done with Shaw.

Apparently, by killing Lewis’ overpriced office campus, the Legislature bruised his ego to the point where he is working to directly undermine acts of the Legislature and stick the taxpayers with an enormous bill. However, by using both the county’s lobbyists and the county historian’s office to undermine the will of the Legislature, never mind to gobble up taxpayer dollars, Lewis has yet again shown his absolute contempt for Niagara County’s elected government.

We grow tired of saying it, but we’ll say it again: The Legislature must finally come to terms with this unelected tyrant, and send him packing back to Minnesota or Florida or Kansas or wherever he’s looking for employment this week.

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