For years, municipal boards and the Chautauqua County Legislature have operated by the "no consequence" premise. No matter how much these governing bodies raised taxes or fees, homeowners - or industry - would always complain, but they would also pay.
In Fredonia and Dunkirk, however, that premise may prove to be a dagger to some of those residents who work in the private sector. Last week, the OBSERVER published an article regarding a letter written by Thomas Dickerson, president of the union representing workers at the local Carriage House facilities. In his letter, he asked local elected officials to become involved with the situation at the plants.
"Though Ralcorp Inc., the parent company of Carriage House, has not announced its intentions, there is growing evidence that it intends to close up all of its Carriage House facilities in our communities and move the work to Buckner, Ky., and elsewhere," wrote Dickerson.
With all the previous business closings in Dunkirk and northern Chautauqua County over the past three decades, you would have thought the "no consequence" premise would have ended years ago. But recent decisions - and proposals - by local leaders prove otherwise.
Last spring, the Village Board in Fredonia - home to a Carriage House facility - were deaf to concerns about raising its water rates by 20 cents per thousand gallons of water used.
On top of that, village water rates continued to be nearly double the rate of water in desert-dry Arizona. Did the village and its officials believe that 20-cent increase would not impact Carriage House favorably?
How about the city of Dunkirk's recent plan for "significant" water rates hikes? While all city users will benefit from system upgrades, how does this rate increase reflect to companies such as Carriage House or Cott? Were they consulted or are they just expected to pay more when competitive rates - Dunkirk's water is even more expensive than Fredonia - exist elsewhere in this country?
Government must work with its major employers. It cannot continue to believe that because a plant is here it will be here for years to come - no matter how high the taxes or the fees.
Dunkirk and Fredonia officials are being asked to help with a situation regarding local employees. If those officials continue to think there's "no consequence" to continuing the spending spree by upping rates, they will continue to be punished by the plant-closing lessons this area never learned from in the past.