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Paving returns as Chautauqua County back to full staff

OBSERVER Photo by Natasha Matteliano Crews are pictured on Franklin Avenue in Dunkirk where milling work has been taking place.

Chautauqua County residents may see more work on area roads being done locally. That’s because the county is back to its full workforce.

“Our target date was Aug. 3 to bring our furloughed employed back and we have done that,” said County Executive PJ Wendel during a telephone interview. “Residents are going to be seeing more road work, if they haven’t already.”

In late May Legislator Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, said the county was implementing a voluntary furlough program, mainly because of the need for county to reduce its budget because of the loss of revenues as a result of COVID-19.

At that time, Nazzaro said 139 county employees volunteered for the program. According to Wendel, there were a few more employees that later joined in the furlough program.

The furlough program was scheduled to run from May 21 to July 31, which was the last day employees were eligible for the $600 a week federal bonus from the CARES Act for being unemployed. County employees who participated in the program continued to have their health insurance.

Wendel did say some furloughed employees were brought back early because of the need. He wasn’t certain on the exact number that stayed furloughed the entire time, although he did say some employees ended up retiring, so the numbers have fluctuated.

Department of Public Facilities Director Brad Bentley said with this shortened season, they hope to mill and pave 10 roads this year. “We’ve already started milling Franklin Avenue in Dunkirk,” he said. “We’re getting prepared to do paving there Monday.”

Bentley said normally they like to start milling and paving in late May or early June. “We’re going to do as much as we can in this shortened season,” he said.

Once Franklin Avenue is done, the county plans on working on Park Street in Sherman and possibly work on some streets in Jamestown after that. “It’s all weather dependent,” he said.

Along with paving, having a fully staffed Department of Public Facilities, local residents are now able to go to the county’s two parks.

Monday Luensman Overview Park in the town of Portland and Erlandson Overview Park in the town of Carroll both reopened. Wendel said they able to do this because parks employees were among those that had been furloughed.

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