County OKs funds for Dunkirk boat race

MAYVILLE — The Chautauqua County Legislature approved a resolution on Wednesday to provide additional bed tax funding to the Great Lakes Offshore Grand Prix featuring powerboats from the Race World Offshore racing league that will take place along Lake Erie in Dunkirk Aug. 17-19.

With the end of the Dunkirk Air Show, which had been held the last two years along the lakeshore, Dunkirk city officials asked the legislature to approve $12,000 in occupancy tax funding, which had already been allocated for the air show, to go toward the powerboat race. Also, city officials asked the county legislature to approve an additional $20,500 in bed tax funding for the three-day event.

The legislature also approved appropriating $5,000 in 2 percent occupancy tax reserves toward a proposal to develop the Lake Erie waterfront. The Northern Chautauqua County Community Foundation’s Local Economic Development Committee has applied for a $35,000 grant from the state Local Waterfront Revitalization Program to hire a consultant to determine the economic impact of three Lake Erie harbors – Barcelona, Dunkirk and Cattaraugus Creek – and the entire waterfront.

According to the resolution, the economic impact analysis would support the effort to operate and maintain the harbors and the waterfront. The analysis would also support and encourage economic development and private investment. Officials from Dunkirk, Hanover and Westfield are also financial partners in the proposal.

The Chautauqua County legislature also approved a resolution to increase the salary of about 75 caseworkers by two grades, which will be about a $2 to $3 an hour raise.

Prior to the vote during the privilege of the floor, Katherine Hamernik, Child Protective Services caseworker representative, spoke about the need for the salary increase. She said employee turnover rates are very high, which was never the case in the past. She added that each caseworker is handling more and more cases, which are also lasting longer than in the past.

Because the number of drug abuse, domestic violence and sexual abuse cases are increasing, the job of a caseworker is tougher than it was five years ago, Hamernik said.

Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan, was the only no vote against the proposal. He said prior to the vote that he sympathizes with the caseworkers, but believes the issue should be discussed when the legislature analyzes the proposed county budget, which normally takes place in September and October.

In other legislature business, the group approved a support resolution for a state grant that will go toward the Western New York Land Conservancy purchase of the College Lodge Forest Park. Prior to the vote, Jajean Rose-Burney, Western New York Land Conservancy deputy executive director, said the State University of New York at Fredonia Faculty Student Association owns the property, which is located in the towns of Chautauqua, Portland and Stockton. He said the Faculty Student Association is having a difficult time maintaining the property and would like to sell 160 acres of the 220 they own. He added the land conservancy is applying for a state grant to purchase the land, which needs the support of the municipalities involved. Rose-Burney said the three towns have already passed support resolutions.

During the Planning and Economic Development meeting held earlier this month, Rose-Burney said the land conservancy is purchasing the property for around $314,000, which has been appraised for $370,000.