Borrello, Ferguson tackle NRG Plant in debate

Editor’s Note: This article is the second part of the county executive debate coverage.

George Borrello and Mike Ferguson, the Republican and Democratic county executive candidates, respectively, dug into issues such as fixing the economy, sanctuary cities and repowering the NRG plant in Dunkirk during the debate Thursday in Jamestown.

Held by the Southern Tier TEA Party Patriots at the Spire Theatre in Jamestown, the event gave the candidates time to publicly answer a variety of questions that were given to them ahead of the event. They were also given a chance to respond to what the other candidate said. The event was moderated by the Rev. Mel McGinnis.

When it comes to the economy, Borrello said that Chautauqua County needs to become what it is in the process of becoming: a diamond in the rough in a state that is difficult to do business in. He said he has owned businesses in New York state and so, he understands what it is like. He said he carries that experience with him as a legislator, and will also as the county executive. Borrello said the county needs to be “singing from the same sheet of music” and not have “spotty” development.

Borrello said he has introduced his “Elevate Chautauqua” 10-point plan that will help bring more businesses here to the county. He said he would have a group of individuals dedicated to meeting about economic development regularly.

Ferguson said he believes the county needs to seek new job opportunities and redevelop agricultural opportunities. He said it is also important to develop shovel-ready sites, not in 2017 but also in 2020 and 2025 that are marketable and that will hold high-speed, fiberoptic internet which is needed for businesses.

Ferguson said it is important also to invest in manufacturers and local businesses here, and also utilize the drive of Interstate 90 and Interstate 86 to bring distribution centers into the area in the age of Amazon and other online retailers. Another component is creating a skilled, educated workforce which can be done through the Chautauqua Education Coalition and the Parents as Teachers Program being developed by Todd Tranum, Ferguson said.

When it comes to sanctuary cities, Ferguson said as a Christian and a humanitarian, he is compelled to care for the downtrodden. Sanctuary cities are cities that limits the enforcement of immigration law.

Borrello said he is against sanctuary cities, citing the case of Kate Steinman, a woman who was killed in San Fransisco by a felon who was illegally in the United States in 2015.

Both candidates said they were against a constitutional convention because of the unfair advantage New York City would have.

The Dunkirk Power Plant also came up in the debate, with Borrello saying that he would like to see the plant repowered, and that natural gas is the way to go. At some point, he said NRG has to “fish or cut bait.” If the plant cannot be repowered, a back-up plan has to be made.

Ferguson said he would also like to see the plant repowered with clean energy.

“I agree it’s time to eat or wash the dishes,” he said. “We’re all for bringing the Dunkirk Plant back.”

However, Ferguson said the Dunkirk shore on Lake Erie has been sorely underdeveloped. If Buffalo and Erie, Pa. can redevelop their waterfront areas, he said he is confident that Chautauqua County can do it, too.

Ferguson, born in Buffalo, is a lifelong Western New Yorker who’s spent over 28 years in Chautauqua County with his wife, Dianne. He has experience in marketing, athletic facility management and event production and is the marketing executive for Fredonia Place, an assisted-living community. Ferguson was previously the executive and general manager for what was known as the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena, now the Northwest Arena.

Borrello is a Chautauqua County native who was born and raised in Silver Creek and Fredonia. He graduated from Fredonia High School in 1985 and graduated from Purdue University in 1989. He founded Top-Shelf Marketing in his early 20s, which became a nationally-recognized supplier in the hospitality industry. He later merged the company with Progressive Specialty Glass Company and became vice president of marketing. Borrello recently retired from his private business career to focus on being a public servant.