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Divisive remarks sour hospital ‘win’

I read the Commentary written by Fredonia Village Trustee Michelle Twichell, on the Opinion page of the June 8-9 edition of the OBSERVER with great interest.

I strongly agree with Trustee Twichell’s comment that “the new hospital is a win for everyone,” but I disagree with her subsequent statement that it is also a “uniquely pro-Fredonia opportunity offering security for those I represent.”

I believe that statements such as this only serve to reinforce the Dunkirk-Fredonia divide regarding the location of the new hospital, when all of us and especially our elected leaders, should be doing everything that we can to reduce these concerns. In fact, the new hospital is an opportunity for all of Dunkirk-Fredonia in particular, but also for all of Northern Chautauqua County.

I also believe that Trustee Twichell’s statement that “existing infrastructure assures that Brooks Hospital will not be compromised by an inadequate water supply,” is entirely inaccurate. I strongly encourage anyone who did not attend the April 10 meeting at the Fredonia 1891 Opera House, to watch the presentation which can be found on YouTube. It was given by two very experienced people from the Chautauqua County Department of Health and two professors from SUNY Fredonia, each of whom have significant expertise in water issues.

I cannot imagine that there are many people, who attended the meeting in person or watched it on YouTube and listened carefully to their presentations, who would agree with Trustee Twichell’s conclusion.

If you haven’t already seen the presentation I strongly encourage you to do so, and then make up your own mind. The Fredonia water treatment plant is clearly at a crisis point and the water supply for Brooks Hospital will absolutely be compromised unless this critical issue is resolved before the new hospital is built. I believe the best course of action is for Fredonia to move forward as expeditiously as possible to purchase water from Dunkirk through a negotiated long-term contract to address this critical need.

An inter-municipal cooperative approach will also give Fredonia the greatest chance to obtain water infrastructure grants that are available to help meet the significant capital expenditures that will be required. The importance of such grant opportunities cannot be overstated. It will be much more difficult for Fredonia to successfully obtain these grants without cooperating with neighboring communities.

Finally, I disagree with Trustee Twichell’s conclusion that, “I see no evidence to suggest that Fredonia should abandon its resources for the benefit of its own citizens or for people of other communities.”

Of course, everyone has the right to their own opinion, but I believe that much of what Trustee Twichell has written is parochial and short sighted.

It is also ironic that in the same issue of the OBSERVER, in fact on the same page as Trustee Twichell’s letter, the Editor wrote about the potential merger of the United Ways of Northern and Southern Chautauqua County, “While we acknowledge the long standing, hard-to-understand Route 60 divide, it’s long past the time for Chautauqua County to act as one, not as a two-tier region”.

The same should be said, even more urgently, for Dunkirk-Fredonia. It is time for a broader vision.

Richard Ketcham is former chief executive officer for Brooks Memorial Hospital and a Fredonia resident.

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