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Lowville blasts Lewis County Legislature for rushing office project

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LOWVILLE — Lewis County legislators could vote to approve the proposed county office building on Outer Stowe Street this evening, after a special meeting was scheduled to review three tabled resolution at last week’s monthly board meeting — even though the village has delivered a five-page letter suggesting the decision be tabled pending further study.

“The village,” according to the letter, “wishes to express its displeasure concerning the manner in which the County is undertaking its review of the proposed new County Office Building. We as well as the public were informed repeatedly throughout the process that this was only investigatory and not any kind of commitment to do the project.”

To date, “We have yet to get adequate information or satisfactory answers to our questions,” the letter continues, despite approaching the county months earlier with concerns about the ability of the existing infrastructure to support the project.

“Meanwhile the county is approaching this as if it is an already approved project without providing the necessary environmental review or even a chance for input.”

Lewis County legislators last week tabled late resolutions that could have approved construction of the building at a maximum cost of $10 million and approving contracts for the work. Another resolution stated that the project “will not result in any significant adverse environmental impact.”

State law defining the purpose and intent of the SEQR regulations is referenced in the letter, when it notes, “the basic purpose of SEQR is to incorporate the consideration of environmental factors into existing planning, reviewing and decision making processes of state, regional and local government agencies at the earliest possible time.” The concept will, it explains, “allow early discussions to narrow issues.”

The village believes the county, “has conducted the procedure backwards initiating its environmental review at the latest possible time,” because, it states, “has already spent considerable tax payer money on engineering and design documents to put a project out to bid, has received those bids and appears to be ready to accept and proceed with the project before it even drafted an environmental assessment form. Conducting the environmental review, at the end of the process is the opposite of what SEQR requires. It shows in the opinion of the village that the county does not intend to take a hard look at environmental issues or to even comply with the purpose or intent of SEQR.”

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