Despite criticism, Legislature OKs stimulus
MAYVILLE –Instead of waiting, the Chautauqua County Legislature has gone ahead and approved a plan that allocates $24.6 million awarded from the American Rescue Plan Act funding to 43 projects.
County lawmakers approved the plan Wednesday, but there were comments made on both sides of the aisle.
During the legislature meeting, Legislator Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, proposed an amendment to the resolution. In it, he added the line “subject to further review,” so that the legislature will be required to again approve each individual project. The amendment passed without comment.
Legislator Bob Bankoski, D-Dunkirk, asked the legislature to delay voting on it until next month. He wanted to give all municipalities an additional 30 days so local officials could reach out to County Executive PJ Wendel for any proposed changes. “I believe that the 40-some projects are very worthy of the expenditure of these funds, but we may have missed some. A brief extension, I feel, of 30 days, won’t delay the expenditure of these funds,” he said.
Legislator Christine Starks, D-Fredonia, agreed. “An extra 30 days, I feel, would be valuable,” she said.
Along with Bankoski and Starks, Legislators Bob Whitney, D-Jamestown and Paul Whitford, D-Jamestown voted to table the resolution. Nazzaro joined the other 14 Republicans opposing tabling it.
Shortly thereafter all 19 legislators approved the spending plan, which is required by the federal government.
Before the vote, Norman P. Green, who is running for county executive on the Democratic line, called on county lawmakers to scrap the entire process and start over, because there have been no public meetings where input was sought.
The mayors of Dunkirk and Jamestown sent out a joint statement on Tuesday, calling for the delay of the approval, even though both cities are receiving substantially more money than the county is compared to their relative budgets. Jamestown is getting nearly $29 million and Dunkirk is getting more than $11 million.
After the vote, Green continued to criticize the legislature for approving the project. He particularly took issue with the $8 million for the Phase II sewer extension for the western side of Chautauqua Lake. “One third of the entire money that has been awarded by the federal government in Chautauqua County is going for this line. Is it important? Yes. Is it going to get funded some day? Yes. The money’s coming, somewhere, some way. Is it more important than funding things like expanding the bus service, or rescuing the White Inn (in Fredonia), or having a bus service that goes from Dunkirk to Fredonia, to Jamestown so our workers can get to work from Jamestown to the Wells Ice Cream plant? Is it more important than the dam in Fredonia?,” he said.
He accused the legislature of funding a project that will “benefit a dozen millionaires from Cleveland, Ohio” instead of helping the residents of Chautauqua County. “We have an opportunity in Dunkirk and Fredonia to do an itnerconnect and to have two sources of water. We’ve got a golden opportunity, a golden amount of money. It’s a shame to not take advantage of this money at this time for a problem that is affecting thousands and thousands of Fredonians and Pomfret people,” he said.
On Thursday, a day after the legislature approved the project, County Executive PJ Wendel issued a statement, defending the process.
“The County Executive’s Office organized meetings solely dedicated to meet with City of Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist and City of Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas to discuss ARPA project collaboration. The first meeting was on March 23 to discuss ARPA funding to improve broadband access, and the second was on June 2 to discuss the American Rescue Plan. Mayor Sundquist expressed to meeting participants not to carve out any money for the City of Jamestown in the county’s ARPA projects as the City had its own plan,” said Wendel in the news release. “In addition, Mayor Rosas did not attend the first meeting, and sent a liaison from his office to the second. Furthermore, the County Executive’s Office has monthly conference call meetings with all of the county’s town supervisors and mayors. Both Sundquist and Rosas are invited to these monthly meetings and could have presented any ARPA projects, but neither mayor actively participated in these calls.”
County Legislator Elisabeth Rankin of Jamestown encouraged residents who have further ideas on how the money should be spent to contact their county legislator.
The 43 projects cover items in public health, infrastructure, economic/workforce development, clean water, public safety, and a couple of miscellaneous projects. To view a complete list of the projects included in the approved ARPA Plan, visit the County Executive’s page of the county website at: https://chqgov.com/county-executive/County-Executive.