Wendel Sees Great Growth Potential In Lakewood

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of articles highlighting major issues facing each of the 19 Chautauqua County districts and the legislators who preside over them.

PJ Wendel is looking forward to his second term as a Chautauqua County legislator and said it’s a way for him to give back to his community.

His two main focuses for the next two years will be the maintenance of county lakes and acquiring a new public safety radio system.

“It’s ancient technology. With mandates falling down on us, we need to get something done at a good cost,” he said.

Major issues in his district include economic growth and property taxes.

“I have residents who pay as much in property taxes as some people make in a year,” Wendel said.

As for the district’s economy, Wendel said there is great potential for growth in Lakewood. He’s impressed with incoming businesses such as Olive Garden and the growing success of Southern Tier Brewing Company, which expanded its campus this year to include a 45,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution center as well as a wastewater treatment facility.

“It (the brewery) is a poster child for economic opportunity,” Wendel said.

As for other issues in Chautauqua County, he said the Chautauqua County Home is still a burden and doesn’t think it’s a north county/south county issue.

“We need to find out what the best option is, and we need to look at the taxpayers. We’ve opened the eyes of the public as to what can be done and how to move forward,” he said of the skilled nursing facility, which has been a highly controversial topic in recent years.

Pursuing the potential combination of Chautauqua Lake’s three sewer districts is important to Wendel, along with establishing a regional water district in the north county.

“Those infrastructure needs have to be there to boost our economic development. We need to make some progress and we need all the players involved,” he said. “If the regional water district attracts even one business or more than one, we’ve done our job.”

Lastly, he thinks bipartisan cooperation is necessary and said he sees the importance of working together.

“Comradery is what got me excited to come back,” he said. “It’s not a venomous pit (the legislature). We mingle and we’re evenly mixed.”