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County eyes 41 projects for federal funds

OBSERVER Photo by Gregory Bacon Chautauqua County legislators hear about a plan to use $24.6 million from the American Rescue Plan Act.

MAYVILLE — The federal government has given Chautauqua County $12.3 million and will give another $12.3 million as long as a plan is in place for how the county will use the money.

The money, which is part of the American Rescue Plan Act, can only be spent on certain things – water, sewer, broadband and infrastructure. It can also be used to address recovery losses from COVID-19 and public health initiatives.

According to county officials, it can’t be used to pay off debt, placed in savings, used for pension funds or lower taxes.

Since March, a select group of county officials have been meeting with various department heads to develop a plan on how to spend the $24.6 million that has been earmarked for Chautauqua County. On Wednesday, county legislators heard the full plan for the first time.

The plan, which has not yet been adopted, has 41 projects. Currently, the county is not taking suggestions for future projects, however if the federal government approves the proposed infrastructure spending plan, some of the projects proposed in the county’s American Rescue Plan may be moved to the infrastructure spending plan, which would allow for additional projects.

Mark Geise, deputy county executive for economic development and director of the county Industrial Development Agency, presented the 41 projects.

They were divided up in six categories: public health, infrastructure, economic and workforce development, clean water, public safety, and miscellaneous items. Below is an itemized list under each category.

PUBLIC HEALTH

¯ $700,000 for healthy housing and lead-based paint remediation. It would address various issues, including leaking roofs and mold, as well as lead based paint, for low income residents. “Children have been in their homes more because of the pandemic and they’ve been exposed to hazards longer, due to the fact that they had to be home schooled or were not in public day care settings,” explained Christine Schuyler, county health director and commissioner of Social Services.

¯ $378,000 for Strong Start Chautauqua, which helps the youngest and unborn children, who are in poverty, due to their mothers being addicted to drugs or alcohol. The money would be used for universal screening and outreach, as well as clinical training and technical assistance.

¯ $110,000 for Information Technology upgrades.

¯ $1.1 million to upgrade the Frank W. Bratt Agricultural Center in Jamestown. The building is currently vacant and needs improvements before it can be used again.

¯ $90,000 to replenish Personal Protective Equipment.

¯ $45,000 to purchase Deterra pouches. These pouches are used to destroy unused prescription medication and would be given to individuals who are given a prescription by a pharmacist.

¯ $100,000 to address isolation housing. This money would be used for emergency assistance for those who are mandated to be isolated but have no where to go.

¯ $640,000 to improve heating, ventilation, and air conditioning in county-owned properties.

¯ $250,000 for paving at the county’s Office of Emergency Services in Mayville to create a drive-through clinic.

¯ $200,000 for pubic health emergency response planning and preparation. These funds would be used to evaluate the county’s response to the current pandemic and how to plan for future emergencies. Many of these plans are required for federal funds.

INFRASTRUCTURE

¯ $2.5 million to provide high speed internet to unserved or underserved communities in the county. The county would use the funds as a match for internet providers to install the infrastructure in rural parts of the county. “This is something we’ve never embarked on in county government – investing in something that wouldn’t be a tangible asset for us on the outside,” explained County Executive PJ Wendel.

¯ $173,000 to increase county internet bandwidth upgrades.

¯ $1.4 million to install infrastructure for shovel ready sites. According to Geise, the county often will receive calls from interested businesses who want to relocate here, but there are no good sites available. “In my humble opinion, this is the most important thing we can do is have these sites so these companies can come in and invest money here, pay taxes and create jobs,” he said.

¯ $650,000 to buy a used 60 ton crane for bridge work. According to Department of Public Facilities Director Brad Bentley, the county has a crane from the 1970s, but they have a hard time finding operators and parts for it. Because of this, when the county has to do bridge work, they often have to contract out that work.

¯ $480,000 to buy two new dump/plow trucks. Bentley said the county has 33 trucks, with 13 of them are more than 10 years old. This would help speed up the replacement of their fleet.

¯ $810,000 to buy a new snowplow. This plow would be used when there is too much snow for the county plow trucks to move. According to Bentley, they have a 1963 snowplow which they have, but parts are nearly impossible to find. Without the plow, the county has to rely on the state or the National Guard in a snow emergency.

¯ $400,000 to buy a long arm excavator. This would be used for ditch and stream work, including help with ice jams.

¯ $72,000 to do an air service development study for the county airport in Jamestown. This study would help determine if commercial air service can ever return to Chautauqua County.

ECONOMIC/WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT

¯ $1.4 million to buy sites that can be used for future development. This would be in tandem with the $1.4 million for the infrastructure for shovel ready sites. Geise added that Chautauqua County, compared to other Western New York counties, has fewer sites available for development.

¯ $800,000 to bolster the county’s occupancy tax program. According to officials, this money would cover the losses over the last year and a half when the county wasn’t receiving occupancy tax from vacation rental properties.

¯ $500,000 for the Chautauqua County Partnership of Economic Growth. This initiative, which was launched in 2019, is used to develop projects annually and the money would be used for required grant matches.

¯ $352,000 for the Chautauqua Advancement Project, to connect college educated young professionals with paid internships at area businesses to eventually retain them in the community. This program is in partnership with JCC, SUNY Fredonia, the county IDA and other agencies with a specific emphasis on manufacturing.

¯ $240,000 to temporarily waive various fees for county businesses, for two years, that were hurt by the pandemic. Examples of businesses include campgrounds, restaurants, tanning salons, tattoo parlors and mobile home parks.

¯ $232,540 for Cornell Cooperative Extension’s agricultural improvement program. This money would help farmers improve vacant or underperforming farmlands. “The idea is to help bolster the agricultural community and the economic development behind it,” said Emily Reynolds, CCE director.

¯ $400,000 for marketing assistance for businesses and not for profits, through the Chamber of Commerce, the county IDA, and the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau. Geise explained this would create grants for area businesses to assist them with their marketing.

CLEAN WATER

¯ $8.4 million for the Phase II sewer extension for West Side of Chautauqua Lake. This extension would reduce bacterial contamination to private water wells and reduce nutrient loading to the lake.

¯ $250,000 for streambank stabilization for streambanks that run alongside various roads that are easily damaged or flood in heavy rains.

¯ $150,000 for a Chautauqua Lake Protection and Rehabilitation District study. This study would be different than ones in the past, in that it would not focus on lake properties, but rather other properties that inadvertently impact Chautauqua Lake.

¯ $250,000 for the Jefferson Project at Chautauqua Lake. This project helps identify causes and solutions of Harmful Algal Blooms and is in partnership with Chautauqua Institution.

PUBLIC SAFETY

¯ $70,000 to renovate the former print shop in the county so it can be used by the District Attorney’s Office.

¯ $64,610 for new handguns for the Sheriff’s Department.

¯ $30,000 for new personal ballistic vests for the Sheriff’s Department.

¯ $318,000 for one body and two mail scanners for the county jail.

¯ $175,000 for newer mobile and portable radios and vehicle repeaters.

¯ $30,000 for two vehicle towed electronic message boards.

¯ $41,500 for technology upgrades to the county Emergency Services Office.

¯ $135,000 to replace the county’s dive boat. The current one was damaged during a recent rescue and is presently not in service.

¯ $121,000 for emergency medical equipment.

MISCELLANEOUS

¯ $33,800 for digitization of county records.

¯ $250,000 to improve county trails. Money would repair bridges, culverts, kiosks, signs, on the Overland trails.

¯ $250,000 to create a part-time grant administrator of the American Rescue PLan Act.

NEXT STEP

Legislature Chairman Pierre Chagnon said the legislature will review the spending proposals at the committee meetings this month. The goal is to hopefully adopt the entire plan in September. By having the plan in place, the federal government will issue the county the remaining $12.3 million next year. He added that should the entire plan be adopted, department heads will still need to get final approval for each individual spending plan.

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