County Executive Focusing On Three Areas In Coming Months
From job creation to a healthier environment for Chautauqua County residents, County Executive Vince Horrigan says he has a three-pronged approach for improvement.
While it was discussed in his March State of the County address, Horrigan said he plans to fully unveil Operation Jump-Start in June, as it is currently underway.
“We are pulling people together, identifying a steering committee and action teams,” he said, adding that the three focus areas include efficiency in service delivery, a healthier environment for residents and his main focus – workforce development. “It appears to be the first one out of the box that we really want to focus on.”
At a recent Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting, Horrigan said a blend of education, career development and efforts of the Workforce Investment Board will aid in the creation of jobs for the present and future of Chautauqua County.
“We’ve got to get offensive in the county in terms of economic development and planning,” he said. “It’s a different time in our country economically, and I think we’re going to see businesses come and go in Chautauqua County, but I’m more focused on a long-term strategy.”
He said that while tourism is abundant along with agribusiness, he wants to see the county in a position to move forward, while creating and preparing for economic development.
“As I tour companies, I see there’s clearly opportunity, and there’s been growth, but there are challenges. It’s a mixed bag,” he said.
Horrigan also said it’s important to focus on small businesses.
“They’re the industries that are going to be here for the long term,” he said.
Two major initiatives for Horrigan involve water projects – consolidation of Chautauqua Lake’s sewer districts and a water district in the north county.
On Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced $90 million in statewide funding for the improvement of state parks and historic sites, $1 million of which was allocated for Long Point State Park’s sewer system connection to the South and Center Sewer District.
“This fits right into Operation Jump-Start,” he said of the state funding, adding that the connection will enable a much improved lake situation.
Chautauqua Heights, North Chautauqua Lake Sewer District, Chautauqua Utility District and the South and Center Chautauqua Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant make up the lake’s wastewater system.
“The Chautauqua Lake sewer system is a key component of my Jump-Start initiative,” Horrigan said. “We are in the process of selecting an engineering firm to complete the feasibility study for completing the sewer system around the lake.”
Properties not connected to the system have aging septic tanks, and forming one continuous system would help prevent phosphorous from entering the lake.
As for a water district composed of nine north county municipalities, Horrigan said it is vital for economic growth.
A hot-button issue, the formation of a regional water district has been debated back and forth between municipalities, with the village of Fredonia on the fence about joining.
A water agency was formed in November as a recommending body composed of three county legislators and nine elected officials representing municipalities to be included in Phase 1 of the proposed water supply program.
“Water agency members are deliberating through the data and information with hopes that a decision will be made next month on the design and initial implementation of the water district,” Horrigan said.
Tourism has been a major focus for Horrigan, and was a campaign focal point before he was elected.
According to Andrew Nixon of the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, visitor spending provides $1.3 million in occupancy tax revenues and $6-7 million in local sales tax revenue per year.
In 2012, direct visitor spending at lodging facilities, wineries, golf courses, ski areas and other recreational sites totalled $175 million, generating 6.2 percent of Chautauqua County’s labor income.
“Tourism is doing well,” Horrigan said. “We want to make sure we have the right tools available for employers who can assist in creating an environment of customer service. We want people who visit Chautauqua County to be impressed with their experiences and say ‘What a great place to come and visit.'”
More information will be provided on Operation Jump-Start in June.
“We want to roll it out in a public fashion,” Horrigan said. “The media will be invited and we will talk about our action teams, the goals we’re going to set and how we’re going to really implement the three areas of concentration