Some winds of change for the better

Progress continues to be made by a number of area municipalities when it comes to efficiencies and regional partnerships. That’s the view from here when examining the city of Dunkirk, towns and villages that make up the OBSERVER’s readership area.

Over the past year, there has been a greater sentiment for working together. Much of the credit for this comes from county leadership and Executive Vince Horrigan. Once Horrigan took office, he made a point of communicating and listening to key leaders in the area. He was open, understood criticisms and has shown great patience in keeping Chautauqua County on track.

Executive-Elect George Borrello has been just as important. His leadership in the Regional Solutions Commission has the county in the running for $20 million from New York state with five other entities in a consolidation grant competition.

We’ve come a long way since 2007 in downsizing our governments with six fewer county legislators, at least four dissolutions if you include those in Cattaraugus County and even more hopes on the horizon.

Remember, it is not up to local governments to build economies. But in recent decades in Western New York, they have made it nearly impossible to create an environment for growth and prosperity in the private sector.

That could be slowly changing. Here’s how the municipalities rate out this year, with last year’s grade in parenthesis:

¯ Arkwright — Turbine project is in full gear. There may be more people working on construction effort than there is living in town of a little more than 1,000. Revenue helps in future, but windmills will take toll on scenic value. Grade: C+ (B-).

¯ Brocton — Boosted by Mayor Richard Frost and the idea of “consharidation,” this village is moving in the right direction in working with the town of Portland. Grade: B+ (B).

¯ Cassadaga — New mayor at helm, but problems persist regarding the beach and hours in quiet village. Strength here is in the volunteers in Citizens for a Better Cassadaga who are not in government, but still working to promote the entity. Grade: C (C-).

¯ Cherry Creek — Dissolution approved by large margin — and no identity problems in joining forces with town. Grade: A (B+).

Ø Dunkirk (city) — New wave of enthusiasm and working development department appear to have city on rise. Mayor also has strong connection to state and looks for regional solutions whenever possible. Grade: B (C+).

Ø Dunkirk (town) — Ready for north county water district and looking to share highway superintendent with a neighboring entity. Excellent. Grade: A- (B-).

¯ Evans — Plenty of financial issues face this Erie County entity. Grade: C-.

Ø Fredonia — Village still an island when compared to remainder of county in efforts to find regional solutions. Water system remains problematic as costs to users continue to climb. Grade: D (D).

Ø Gowanda — Got big win in $2.5 million in funding from state. Grade: B- (C+).

Ø Hanover — There have been some bumps since the dissolution of Forestville, but the board has been professional and open about taking over those operations. B+ (B+).

Ø Perrysburg — After a village dissolved, status quo is OK. B+ (B+).

Ø Pomfret — Definitely more progressive than their neighbors in Village Hall. Involved in Chadwick Bay, but had to up water rates due to increase by village of Fredonia. B- (B-).

¯ Portland — Town Supervisor Dan Schrantz is a good listener and leader. He understands the benefits of regionalism and consolidation. That benefits the county and potential partners. Grade: B+ (B)

Ø Ripley — From 2009 to 2012, Michael J. Bolender earned $347,465 as the town’s attorney. He is still listed in that position, but does not show up on the town’s payroll records. He can’t be doing the work for free. D (D)

Ø Sheridan — Current town supervisor made a mess in his attempted demolition effort with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. New board and supervisor likely to be more involved on regional efforts. — Grade: C (C-)

Ø Silver Creek – Mayor Nick Piccolo had a nice run and made major changes, especially with elimination of police. May be only a matter of time before town and village and working closer together. Grade: C+ (C-).

¯ Stockton – Needs to take larger role in regional efforts in area. Grade: C (C)

¯ Villenova – Facing same challenges as Arkwright with wind power advocates, opponents. Grade: C (C)

¯ Westfield (town) – How soon will it be before town and village merge, if ever? Grade: C (D).

¯ Westfield (village) — Downtown, especially in the summer, has a special energy. Entity still too small to have its own police force. Grade: C (C-).

Overall, efforts of municipal governments rate a C-plus, a little higher than average but better than the overall C rating of last year. If anything, that is a positive.

John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 401.