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Erie County lawmakers get final chance to ask questions before Thursday Bills stadium vote

Erie County lawmakers got an in-person briefing from some of the deal's top negotiators, and the chance to ask questions, on Wednesday.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills new stadium project appears ready for its final Erie County approval on Thursday. So on Wednesday, at a special meeting, Erie County lawmakers got an in-person briefing from some of the deal's top negotiators, and the chance to ask questions.

The meeting really dealt more with some of the construction financing, logistics, and community impacts.

With those shiny stadium renderings in our heads, the county's $250 million sales pitch now to lawmakers and the taxpayers goes like this from Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz:

"I believe we did get a very good deal with regards to the contribution of the county towards the construction," he said. "The county is putting $250 million in to what is now a $1.54 billion project. That is 16.2 percent. So when you look at the contribution of Erie County toward the construction, we are actually at a very small amount when you look at other local governments and what has been done across the country."

There were six attorneys from a Texas-based law firm representing the county. That legal team led by Attorney Franklin Jones said: "There was a lot of collaboration on this side of the table, trying to get that good deal done, and I think we were able to accomplish all four major goals for the county."

That is to legally lock the Bills in for 30 years with the state and its $600 million share, taking ownership of the new stadium. That goes along with a still-evolving $3 million per year Community Benefits Agreement tied to the construction and stadium lease.

2 On Your Side asked Legislator Howard Johnson: "Do you think you'll have enough oversight because some people have said the Bills will have too much control?"

Johnson replied: "No. I believe we will have the correct oversight that's needed here. I think you know the county executive and our leadership team of the legislature have hammered out something that's going to be beneficial to all. I think that all of those things will be spelled out in the weeks to come.

"You know some of those things are, I won't stay still in negotiation, but just hammering the final details of those. And then once the details are hammered out, you'll see what it will look like, and you'll see the benefit it will be to Erie County. "

Those across the aisle, such as Legislator James Malczewski, wanted to know more about how the county pays for it with financing.

"We really didn't get any direct answers," Malczewski said. "They said it's a process. What I'm looking for is, I think we made a lot of strides in the last couple of weeks with the bond resolution and being able to reallocate money that was available right now to cut down on the long run costs. Who knows what the future holds? If that opportunity's there, I'd like to do it again." 

Malczewski also wanted clarification on the Project Labor Agreement, which could cover up to 10,000 construction workers.

"With a construction background, one of my big concerns was making sure that the local labor force was fully represented here," Malczewski said. "Obviously we don't have enough in town for what's needed here, but making sure that we maximize all the people that we do have here for maximum value back to the community."

Finally, for Bills Mafia and fans on game days, during the at least three years of construction, Erie County Department of Public Works commissioner Bill Geary said this about parking and access:

"We have plans we're looking at on paper," Geary said, "put it into practice. Going to be this summer when we do some preseason games and some events out there. We'll really start to see it. We're doing some of the make-ready work right now on the site, just putting up a fence line so those perimeters, people are getting a perspective on how much area."

So when the Legislature, as expected, finally votes yes Thursday, we can expect this schedule according to Geary. The actual the groundbreaking will be June 1, then the really big dig, lots of excavation work for the foundation, through the summer and fall.

Steel for the stadium frame may start going up as early as January. Then for three years or so, the work will be underway to reach a projected spring 2026 stadium completion date. 

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