Still Work To Be Done
With the privatization of the Chautauqua County Home solidified as of Wednesday night in Mayville, other county issues must be paid attention.
The highly debated topic captured the concern of voters and representatives, dominated discussion and shaped the outcome of the 2013 election, according to some.
However, legislators and County Executive Vince Horrigan are ready to move forward and focus on other matters within the county.
Interviews with Horrigan and legislators revealed economic development as a main concern.
During the March legislature meeting, Horrigan will deliver his State of the County address, and said he will focus on five aspects of public/private workforce development.
“We are doing everything we can to market the county to new businesses,” he said, adding that implementing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Start-Up NY initiative is crucial.
The program allows businesses to operate tax-free for up to 10 years in conjunction with SUNY campuses and community colleges such as Jamestown Community College, and has had legislators questioning when Chautauqua County will see the initiative’s benefits.
Cory Duckworth, JCC president and Kevin Kearns, vice president for engagement and economic development at SUNY Fredonia, have been working on disseminating information about Start-Up NY and presented the Planning and Economic Development Committee with an informational package last week.
Interested businesses must not pose competition for existing businesses in the community and commit to the creation of new jobs.
“I’m very interested in what we can do to enhance economic development and create more jobs and enhance more opportunities for commerce and business,” said Pierre Chagnon, R-Bemus Point.”I am now beginning to work on a resolution so that the County Legislature can begin to receive regular updates as to how that program is proceeding.”
At Wednesday night’s County Home vote, Fred Larson, D-Jamestown, said capital funds from the sale of the nursing home should be targeted at creating Start-Up NY opportunities for new or expanding businesses and the jobs they will bring to county citizens.
Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, agreed with Larson and Chagnon.
“I’d love to see some progress here in Jamestown,” he said. “We need to expand and create and bring some kind of new industry into Jamestown. Jobs and economic development are No. 1 on my list.”
Two resolutions were passed at Wednesday night’s legislature meeting involving two Chautauqua County lakes.
The first resolution directed the Chautauqua County Water Quality Task Force to monitor the progress of implementation of phosphorus management strategies to achieve designated load reductions in Chautauqua Lake.
“This is a tremendous step forward in making sure we hold these accountable for reducing the total maximum daily load limit,” Chagnon said. “Chautauqua Lake is a huge economic driver for the county and the whole area. I want to make sure that our full-time residents and our summer residents have the ability to continue to enjoy the wonderful lake that we have here.”
Phosphorus is often the limiting nutrient in temperate lakes and ponds and can be thought of as a fertilizer and food for plants. However, excessive phosphorus can result in algae blooms and excessive weed growth.
In 2012, a total maximum daily load for phosphorus was issued for Chautauqua Lake, and the task force will monitor and record the progress of its implementation at wastewater treatment facilities and towns and villages within the watershed.
Next, dredging of recreational channels in Barcelona and Dunkirk harbors as well as Cattaraugus Creek were discussed, and $150,000 from the county’s 2 percent occupancy tax/lakes and waterways reserve fund was designated for mobilizing dredging equipment.
“It’s incumbent on us to save taxpayer money in the long run and promote economic development,” said George Borrello, R-Irving, who added that Barcelona’s dredging will be federally funded, but with the equipment already nearby, it would be beneficial for the other two municipalities to piggyback on the event. “This money will help achieve the goal of dredging and close the gap so that it can be done in an efficient manner and save money in the long run.”
Horrigan said he is in the process of putting together a request for proposals to complete sewers around Chautauqua Lake.
“This is a huge economic development and healthy lake initiative to look at how we can complete the sewers and look at our lake management structure,” he said. “The right grant funding will help us maintain the healthiest possible lake that we can because it’s a huge economic engine.”
Although it’s early in the year, concern over financial matters has been a topic of discussion.
“I’m taking a look at where we are going in the next three years to keep our assessments as low as possible,” Horrigan said. “We need to work on mandate relief as well.”
A major concern for Horrigan is unfunded state mandates, which he mentioned over the course of his 2013 campaign. He has long been a supporter of reducing property taxes, and said the initiative is a key component for everyone in county and local government.
In order to fund state programs such as Medicaid, 90 cents of each county property tax dollar goes to Albany, Horrigan said.
“What’s important is reducing the local share costs of these mandated services so that we can preserve the very small portion, about 10 percent, that we in county, city and local government feel is so essential for our quality of life,” he added.
Chagnon has proposed early budget planning as well.
“Having some background in financial matters, I believe I can assist the county in the financial control of it all,” he said.
Chagnon was vocal during last week’s Audit and Control Committee meeting in Mayville over his concern for county funds.
“Budget creation and budget management are high on my list of priorities,” he said. “It’s never too early.”
“We as a legislature need to monitor budget variances closer,” said Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, who also sits on the Audit and Control Committee. “I know Chagnon is focused on this, and I think we have to hold our department managers a little bit more accountable in sticking with their budgets.”