Legislators OK funding to alliance for urgent lake needs

OBSERVER Photo by Jimmy McCarthy. County Executive Vince Horrigan discusses why he’s proposing to give $100,000 to the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance during Thursday’s Audit and Control Committee meeting.

MAYVILLE — Conditions seen on Chautauqua Lake this year could be an indicator of what’s yet to come this summer season.

With abundant weed growth and the Chautauqua Lake Association’s tight budget, County Executive Vince Horrigan came before the Audit and Control Committee on Thursday to discuss why it’s vital to have a contingency fund set aside for urgent matters.

After hearing from Horrigan, Audit and Control members brought a resolution that was tabled by the Planning and Economic Development Committee on Wednesday and passed it on to the full legislature for next week’s meeting.

Planning and Economic Development Committee members tabled the request by Horrigan to allocate $100,000 to the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance. Several committee members relayed their concerns over the use and the need.

Horrigan wasn’t in attendance for Wednesday’s meeting as he was in Albany with county officials to pitch their shared services application to the state as part of the $20 million Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition. Horrigan came before legislators Thursday morning to state his reasons behind the request.

Specifically, Horrigan told legislators that $10,000 would be used for a required local match to a grant for the herbicide application project in Bemus Bay, which was carried out by the Chautauqua Lake Partnership. Horrigan said the situation seen on the lake last year prompted the group to react.

The remaining funds would remain with the Alliance if a situation occurs where the CLA needs to be out on the lake as late as September. Horrigan cited a situation last year in which the CLA had to end operations as it had no funds available.

“Due to the condition of the lake, the CLA terminated operations about the second week in August. There were no additional funds available at that point and out they went,” Horrigan said. “There was what I would call a crisis in certain parts of Chautauqua Lake with nearshore vegetation that created a tremendous smell. There were algal blooms. It was a very bad issue.”

Horrigan acknowledged the Alliance’s board of directors would do their due diligence to ensure the funds are dispersed for urgent needs. Horrigan said the funds would allow the Alliance to react to certain conditions that resonate through the end of the recreational season.

“We have significant challenges on our lake,” he said. “We have a $30 million hotel that’s going up on the lake. We cannot afford to just piece a little bit of money along the way. That’s what happened in the past, but we’re in a new game.”

Legislator Charles Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, said there’s unknowns as to what will occur on the lake this summer and fall. Nazzaro said he’d like to see funds earmarked only for operational purposes. Horrigan said funds would be for operational expenses and not equipment.

“Because of the timing, I think the legislature should have the chance to vote on it,” Nazzaro said. “We’re giving (the Alliance) a contingency fund. I would hope they would use the funds wisely and build it up for future needs.”

Horrigan said he doesn’t expect to expend all the money this year.

Legislator Jay Gould, R-Ashville, supported to move the resolution to the floor for a vote at next week’s meeting. However, Gould said he isn’t happy giving money away and not knowing where it’s going.

Under the request, funding would come from the occupancy tax lakes and waterways reserve fund, which has approximately $304,000.