Some excitement, more ‘complaining’
It was a year filled with excitement over the Athenex announcement and the historic run of the Dunkirk football team. There also was disappointment and controversy on the local scene that stems from the mothballing of NRG Energy Inc.’s Dunkirk plant and a proposed structure in Fredonia.
Here’s a recap of 2016:
¯ JANUARY — With concerns over NRG’s plant being mothballed, we called on city unions to consider the financial constraints facing the Dunkirk economy. “Without the plant being in operation for the time being, administration and workers in the schools and city need to be supportive of those paying the bills,” we wrote. “One way to do this would be for those workers to consider wage freezes or reductions. It happens with private business during lean years and needs to be considered now in the public sector.”
¯ FEBRUARY — State Gov. Andrew Cuomo is keeping a promise to boost Western New York after a visit to the city to announce a potential 900 jobs through Athenex. “Who else has given Western New York so much attention? Would Long Islander Rob Astorino, who ran against Cuomo in the last governor’s election, done the same? Probably not. Did the shamed Eliot Spitzer or interim Gov. David Paterson have us on their radar? Of course not.”
¯ MARCH — A reassessment of the former ConAgra building got the ire of the Fredonia Central Schools with one administrator saying with the reduction, the district is getting “stiffed.” “If anyone was “stiffed,” it was the longtime workers at the plant, not the school district,” we wrote. “Those complaining most at this meeting will still have a job come next year — and probably receive a nice pay raise. In the meantime, members of our community suffer without the jobs.”
¯ APRIL — Raising the minimum wage, which impacts area business, has the backing of local government officials. Ironically, however, the rule will not impact their finances. “Government has it easy,” we wrote. “It has no real bottom line. It just keeps taking more money from fewer residents. Struggling businesses in this region, however, are not as lucky. If they cannot pay the bills, they close.”
¯ MAY — Schools rely on the public for support of always increasing budgets, but once they get the residents to pay more … they again want them to pay. Such was the case in Brocton with its fitness center — paid for by tax dollars — and requiring a fee from residents. “The voting community, who ultimately made the fitness room possible and approve the annual budgets to take on more taxes, are punished again if they want to use something they have passed and are technically already paying for.”
¯ JUNE — Government is reaching out to small business with forums, which is a welcome change. However, listening cannot be enough. “(T)he best thing the city and village can do for business is obvious: hold the tax rates while not consistently hiking water and sewer fees. No municipality is doing a good job of that, which is part of the reason investment has been stagnant in Chautauqua County for half a century.”
¯ JULY — Despite constant complaints on a municipal and school level, the state-imposed tax cap is working, except in some instances. “Some of the greatest increases in taxes over the last five years have occurred in the villages. Leading the way was Cherry Creek, which had building demolition issues, of more than 20.5 percent; Forestville, which is a financial mess, up 15 percent; and Fredonia, up 6 percent.”
¯ AUGUST — Grant requests in Fredonia that include a fence in Barker Common were the talk of the village, even during the 48th Farm Festival. “Voices at village meetings pleading against a fence in the park have been few. However, talk at the coffee and dinner tables have been more than just a couple naysayers. There are actually quite a bunch.”
¯ SEPTEMBER — New school year begins with largest two districts without the presence of a school resource officer. “Combined, Dunkirk and Fredonia school and municipal budgets total more than $105 million. In all that cash, however, no funding can be found for school resource officers.”
¯ OCTOBER — After a recent study — yes, another study — the village of Fredonia has three high-priced options concerning its water. The least costly alternative, of course, is the one most resisted. “While the first two appear to be the least expensive, a closer look reveals option three is the best option for the future. Simply put, decommissioning the village plant ends any further expenses and overhead of running a water department.”
¯ NOVEMBER — County has a history of voting with the rest of the nation when it comes to president. This year was more of the same. “To no one’s surprise, New York state went to (Hillary) Clinton. However, like Ohio, Chautauqua County voted — with 58 percent — for (Donald) Trump.
Is America — and our region — ready for what’s next?