Findley Lake Has Chance At Emergency Occupancy Tax Funding

MAYVILLE – Findley Lake has a chance to receive county funding to help with its sinkhole.

Wednesday, the Chautauqua County Legislature’s Planning and Economic Development Committee will have a chance to review a resolution to provide emergency funding to the Findley Lake Watershed Foundation. Thursday, the Audit and Control Committee will do the same.

The resolution, which comes from County Executive Greg Edwards, is a direct result of a meeting which was held Aug. 26 near the sinkhole, organized by Legislator Fred Croscut, R-Sherman.

According to Edwards’ resolution, Findley Lake has a source of water seeping through the breakwall that is currently undermining the stability of the dam, and required immediate emergency action. Additionally, the resolution states there may be a risk associated with the leaking dam, with the potential to threaten human health or life, and economic stability in the area.

“It was a direct result of Fred Croscut calling me to advise me that the sinkhole that had developed a year ago – that I was aware of, because I’m very familiar with Findley Lake, having spent many summer there as a child,” Edwards said. “I knew it had developed, but I thought they had it rectified and it appeared again, larger, this spring. So, I did some research on that, and I got the county (Department of Public Facilities) director, George Spanos, involved. Fred assembled the group he put together here a few weeks ago, which comprised of (State) Sen. (Catharine) Young, Assemblyman Andy Goodell, representatives from the town of Mina, the DEC, the DOT, and we had a very valuable meeting where everyone identified what they knew, what their role could be, and the projected cost to take the necessary steps to begin to address this very serious problem.”

Hill Engineering, out of Northeast, Pa., was brought in to assess the problem. However, according to the resolution, the engineering assessment and summary report will cost approximately $49,440, which the Findley Lake Watershed Foundation and the town of Mina do not have the funding resources available to take on the project. Recently, the watershed foundation was turned down by the county legislature for a request for $40,000 in 2 percent occupancy tax funding, which was instead awarded to several other organizations.

This week, the two committees will be discussing whether $5,000 should be taken from the 2013 2 percent Occupancy Tax Projects account and given to the Findley Lake Watershed Foundation for the Findley Lake Dam Engineering Assessment Project.

“The day that I got the meeting together in Findley Lake, we heard from all the people,” Croscut said. “Then, Greg and I sat down with Jeff Diers and David Himelein. We were going to try and get them at least $5,000 out of the reserve for emergency funding. Obviously, I wanted to see that go through my committee, and I wanted to see it go through the Audit and Control Committee process, because I think once the committee hears from Hill and Hill, which is the engineering firm that is doing all of the up-front work on the sinkhole, they will start to understand that this could very well start to develop into a major problem.

“In view of the fact that I was able to get Sen. Young and the DEC, Andy Goodell, the Soil & Water Board, all of those people together that day in Findley Lake, I’m not turning back on what I’m trying to get accomplished there,” he continued. “So, I’m hoping, through the committee process, to prove to the legislature that this is an emergency situation, realizing that it was turned down in the 2 percent request for the reserves.”

Edwards said it was clear the sinkhole is a serious problem in Findley Lake, one that could potentially negatively impact Chautauqua County’s tourism and economic development.

“I felt it was appropriate to do whatever we could in short order to apply some dollars to help them take the next engineering step, which is to really determine precisely the breadth of the problem, and the steps that need to be taken to solve it,” Edwards said. “So, there is a reserve in the 2 percent. I talked to Fred Croscut about that and Steve Abdella (county attorney). It’s my belief that using a portion, not all, a portion of that reserve in this emergency fits with the goals and objectives of the 2 percent funding, and the type of project that reserves are designed for. This money is going to go in, along with other monies from the IDA, from a variety of other sources, including the landowners themselves, the watershed group, the town of Mina and others to take this very important step to fully investigate the problems so that an engineered solution can be developed.”

In potentially passing the resolution, Croscut said he hopes state officials will be able to see the county is serious in stating there is a problem, and will be able to match the funding the county and IDA hope to provide.

The Planning and Economic Development Committee meets at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Audit and Control meets at 8:35 a.m. Thursday. The resolution will then go to the full legislature Sept. 25 at 6:30 p.m.