County Adds Two More Projects to American Rescue Plan Act | News, Sports, Jobs
By GREGORY BACON
The Chautauqua County Legislature added two new projects to its $ 24.6 million spending plan from the federal government’s American Rescue Plan Act – one to repair a water storage tank in the county’s north and one to repair dam gates near Cherry Creek.
During various legislative committee meetings last week, lawmakers heard again about the 41 proposed projects. On Thursday, the legislature’s audit and control committee finalized the plan, which is due to be voted on Wednesday. On that day, lawmakers can pass the amended plan, make other changes, or reject it and start all over.
During several committee meetings, Norman P. Green of Dewittville, the county executive candidate on the Democratic ticket, urged county lawmakers to restart the process. “There have been no public hearings on the expenses of the Rescue Act. A small, small group of county people assembled only by the county executive met and heard only from county department heads. This money is allocated to the county as a whole and the metropolitan areas of Dunkirk-Fredonia, Jamestown, Westfield and Silver Creek and the suburb of Jamestown have been ignored ”, he said.
His Democratic colleague Chuck Nazzaro, who chairs the audit and control commission, defended the selection of projects. “There was a very organized process for this. Our county executive has appointed a committee. In addition to the heads of departments, there were four legislators above ”, he said. “We had a process. We have met every two weeks. Mark Geise (CEO of the County Industrial Development Agency and County Deputy Director for Economic Development) led the process. We have had volumes of projects. It was a very long task. It is now up to the legislature to examine the projects. “
The Audit and Control Committee adopted two new projects in its final resolution. The first involved the repair and rehabilitation of the North County Water Industrial District storage tank. The cost is $ 863,000.
The change first came from the Legislature’s Public Facilities Committee, which is chaired by lawmaker Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan.
“This water reservoir serves the North County Industrial Water District, which actually has 13 customers, including Ralston Purina, one of the largest employers in the north of the county,” he added. he said.
According to Niebel, the tank is 45 years old and in serious need of repairs. He recommended that the money come from the $ 8.4 million designated for the Phase II sewer extension on the west side of Lake Chautauqua.
The project was to be considered for funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, but the documents were submitted too late.
The second change was $ 500,000 to repair gates at two of the four dams in the Connewango watershed near Cherry Creek. According to lawmaker Jay Gould, R-Ashville, if the valves are repaired, the dredging will also have to be done, which is why each repair is expected to cost $ 250,000.
He said the valves had not operated for several years and if there was a flood they could not open to protect Cherry Creek from flooding.
Apparently, county officials were aware of the need to replace the northern county water storage tank, but not the valves at the Connewango watershed dams.
“This is the first time I’ve heard of this. I see the value of this without a doubt. I’m just concerned that he’s never done any investment projects (listings) or anything before that, knowing that these valves haven’t worked for so many years, ” County Director PJ Wendel said.
Similar to funding for the storage tank, to cover costs, the committee recommended reducing funding for the Phase II sewer extension. County officials have said they hope they can secure funding for the sewer extension through the possible federal infrastructure funding bill currently being debated in Washington.
There were two projects that Nazzaro originally wanted deleted, but they ultimately stuck.
The first project was $ 810,000 for a new snowblower. At the administrative services committee meeting, the director of public facilities, Brad Bentley, said the county has three snow throwers which are mainly used when trucks are unable to push snow. One of the snowblowers was from the 1960s, a second from the 1980s and the most recent from 2002. He was not sure how often it was used.
Nazzaro felt that since the snowblower is mainly used in emergency situations, he wanted to redirect that funding to go elsewhere. The federal government does not allow the money to be used to reduce taxes, so Nazzaro proposed that the money be spent to promote economic development.
Bentley returned to the audit and oversight committee on Thursday and said after speaking to his staff he said the 2002 snowblower had been used eight times last winter and would have been used more if it hadn’t continued to break down.
Bentley said its Sherman staff are using it to reduce snow drifts. If they did not use it, the snow would fall more quickly on the roads. He said a new snowblower would come in handy, not only for emergency purposes, but also for regular use throughout the winter. Due to this new information, Nazzaro agreed with the purchase.
The second item Nazzaro wanted to withdraw was the $ 72,000 to fund a study on essential air service at Jamestown Airport. “I support airports for private, industrial, (and) charter (use). I just think we have to recognize that the days of the Jamestown Commercial Airport are in the past. We were on average six passengers a day. This is just another study ”, he said.
Lawmaker Gould agreed with him. “I firmly believe that we have had too many studies and not enough action” he said.
Bentley defended funding for the study. “This is for essential air service only. … You need this study to request it. You cannot apply without this ”, he said.
Geise also wanted the study to be done. “If it comes back and we find that there is no market, we put it to rest and we are not going in that direction. I think it’s important personally. he said.
Geise believes the last time Jamestown had commercial air service it failed because of the carrier. “They canceled flights and they didn’t provide a good product”, he said.
Wendel expressed support for the study. “We’ve done some studies, but it’s a specialized group that understands what we’re looking for. … Let’s have a final answer once and for all ”, he said.
Lawmaker Niebel agreed with Wendel. “I’m ready to give them one more chance, but that’s it. … This is probably our last shot on commercial flights ”, he said.
Funding for the essential air services study remained in the spending plan. The revised plan now has 43 projects, covering public health, infrastructure, economic / workforce development, drinking water, public safety and miscellaneous. So far, the county has received half of the funding and must have a plan in place in order to receive the remaining $ 12.3 million.