Borrello: Busy first year as county executive
Visiting more than 100 businesses, creating a county-wide economic development alliance and bringing together a task force to curtail the opioid crisis are just a few initiatives started by County Executive George Borrello during his first year in office.
Borrello said he had high expectations of what he wanted to accomplish during his first year in office, which made the experience both exciting and busy.
“It was more than I expected, but in a positive way,” the former county legislator of eight years said. “We were able to get our arms around a lot of things.”
“We accomplished more than I expected in my first year,” he continued.
One of Borrello’s first initiatives as county executive was to visit 100 businesses in 100 days. By the time he finished his first 100 days in office, Borrello said he had visited 107 county businesses.
“From my background in sales and marketing, you have to understand the needs of customers. To me, the businesses in the county our are customers. Of course we have to serve the needs of the people too, but, when you’re talking about the economic engine of our county, it is the businesses that are important,” he said. “I had bought into the political rhetoric that there were no jobs in the county, but after meeting with the business owners they said they have jobs, but a lack of a quality workforce. During the visits, I gathered data about workforce development. We don’t need to create more jobs, but create a better work force. The main achievement of the visits was changing the conversation to what is needed in the county for businesses to survive and thrive.”
Another Borrello plan was the creation of an economic development alliance that brings together community stakeholders throughout the county to develop and implement community-driven initiatives.
In July, Borrello announced county officials had hired Camoin Associates, an industry leader in assisting entities with economic development. Earlier this year, Borrello said at times there is no communication and no coordination between county municipalities when it comes to economic development. He added that separately cities, towns and villages can hit “singles and doubles,” but it will take a cohesive collection of several officials throughout the county to hit a “home run.”
Borrello said a draft report on how the alliance will be structures was just developed by Camoin Associates. He said the report will be released to the public at the start of 2019. He said the alliance will also be created during the first quarter of next year.
“First of all, what (the Camoin Associates said) is economic development organizations, something like 84 percent of them, need to be broader and be more of a regional organizations to survive. We need to create a larger group that is made up of multiple stakeholders in the county. We need nonprofits, business and, of course, people to create an economic development strategy,” he said. “Camoin Associates came in and interviewed various stakeholders. The message we were sending is that we need a united group with a consistent economic development strategy. Most of the stakeholders feel we need that too across the county.”
Another initiative started this year is the Countywide Alliance for Enforcement and Rehabilitation, also known as CAER, which is a task force that was created to address the county’s opioid crisis. CAER, which was formed by Borrello in January, focuses on strengthening law enforcement, prevention, education and treatment services to address the opioid crisis and reverse the number of opioid deaths occurring in Chautauqua County. The task force consists of members from the county District Attorney’s Office, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Mental Hygiene, law enforcement, hospitals and drug treatment clinics, school districts, peer support groups and advocacy groups.
According to statistical data the committee received from the county Department of Health and Human Services, from January through September of 2017, Chautauqua County had 29 drug overdose and 32 drug-related deaths. In comparison, for these same months in 2018, Chautauqua County had 10 drug overdoses and 13 drug-related deaths.
On Dec. 7, county officials released five recommendations from the task force for Borrello to pursue in 2019. These recommendations included combining the Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force and the Jamestown Metro Drug Task Force; add a full-time Investigator to the District Attorney’s Office; transfer the duties of the Department of Mental Hygiene to the Department of Health and Human Services; begin the process to research the potential to open a crime lab in servicing the Southern Tier of New York and areas within Pennsylvania; and enter into an agreement with the Erie County, Pa., Coroner’s Office to share information concerning autopsy results of county residents who die in Erie area hospitals.
“I think the recommendations will be disruptive, but will also create a positive change to help us with the opioid crisis,” Borrello said before the report was released Dec. 7. “The group is made up of law enforcement, departments of health and social services, hospital officials and advocacy groups. All in one group sharing information. I’m very proud.”
Borrello has new initiatives he will be focused on during his second of a four-year term. One of those new initiatives will be to put forth a strategy for Chautauqua Lake.
“The county is going to take the lead and developing a blue print strategy to address water quality issues that the major stakeholders can agree on to prevent gridlock and law suits,” he said. “In the first quarter of 2019, the county will put forth a strategy after having conversations with the stakeholders to give people confidence that we have a strategy moving forward. Whether it is herbicides or other tools in the tool box, all are being considered for a comprehensive strategy to have a clean Chautauqua Lake.”
Another initiative will be to enhance the Chautauqua Area Regional Transit System. Borrello said county officials want to modernize it and rebrand the county’s public transit service.
“CARTS is looked at as just something used by people with disabilities and senior citizens. It is the county’s only mass transportation system and I want to rebrand it, make it easier to use,” he said. “A big issue when it comes to the county’s workforce is transportation. If people who don’t have their own transportation or access is a challenge to them, we can expand (CARTS) to get people to job opportunities. Also, we can expand it for tourism. Right now, it operates Monday through Friday during the day. It is time to expand it to weekends and evenings, and for special events. We can use it to get people to the attractions and events.”
Borrello next year also wants to create a citizen advisory committee that consist of people who aren’t involved in government entities. He said the committee has been created, but they haven’t met yet.
“These people are not normally connected to county government. They’re active in their community, but not regularly engaged in government,” he said. “This group of people, there’s going to be 12 people on the panel, are going to meet and I’m going to approach them with ideas and initiatives to ask them their honest opinion to get their feedback. It will give me an opportunity to hear from a part of the community that I don’t often hear from. In government, you get caught up listening to people in government, who have an active relationship in government. We don’t often hear from people who don’t have a direct access to government. I want to hear from them to make better informed decision.”