Some silver linings to old troubles

Common themes continued to dominate the news landscape of Chautauqua County for 2023. Here is a look back at some of the monthly issues that made headlines – sometimes all too often – in our region.

— January — The topic of urban renewal in the 1960s in Dunkirk is one that remains bitter. At a council meeting, a former Lake Shore Drive property owner believes property acquisition then was wrongly done. “The city … was to maintain ownership as any property acquired through eminent domain was to be for public use, not a private business,” Fiore Conti wrote. “Now the Clarion sits on a parcel no longer owned by the city. The Clarion is not a public use. It is a private business.”

— February — Mayor Wilfred Rosas announces he will not seek a third term as Dunkirk mayor due to a sense of dirty personal politics. “While I have enjoyed my time as mayor, my family has suffered; and my family is my number one priority,” the mayor said in deciding not to seek re-election.

— March — Fredonia, after a February boil-water order, put its focus on its reservoir. At this moment, there was no cause for alarm. “The DEC’s classification of unsound is just based on those two deficiencies, it doesn’t meet their expectation of capacity and drawdown,” said Tom Fitts of the Rochester engineering firm LaBella. “Our structural assessment turned up nothing that would deem it a risk (or) structurally unsafe.”

— April — A troubling trend was on the rise in correctional facilities across New York state. Since late March, the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association Inc. has noted a growing number of staff members that are being injured in attacks. “As anyone can see with these incidents at Collins Correctional Facility, dangerous drugs are still getting into the hands of inmates and that directly causes a serious safety concern for staff when inmates are under the influence and violent,” said Kenny Gold, NYSCOPBA Western Region vice president, in the spring.

— May — Only nine school budget votes – of 543 – were defeated statewide. “New Yorkers again showed that they believe public schools unite our communities,” said New York State United Teachers President Melinda J. Person. So why continue these votes? If budgets are under the tax cap, forgo the unnecessary polling.

— June — Another boil-water order in Fredonia puts an employee in the spotlight. “On June 6 we had a routine inspection on both our intake well and our clear well by divers,” said Luis Fred, chief water treatment officer. “Upon inspection, they noticed very fine solids in the influent section of our clear well. As the inspection was underway, the solids got disturbed and made its way through the clear well into the head of the distribution system.” The boil-water order lasted three days but added frustration for users.

— July — Area governments were seeing the benefits of inflation. In terms of sales-tax revenues, higher prices had a silver lining. “Modest growth in local sales tax collections could be challenging for local officials trying to maintain fiscal balance,” state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli warned. “Being prepared for a slowdown is especially important in this uncertain economy.”

— August — A rift between Fredonia and Farm Festival chairman Mark Mackey has put the future of the event in question. “I’m tired of fighting. Every year it’s been something different,” outgoing chair Mackey said of the village during the July interview. “I spend more time than I should at these trustee meetings and I just don’t want to do it anymore.”

— September — Officials from Orleans County see the value in waterfront development on a visit to Dunkirk. “I was amazed at the crowds that were along the lakefront, and the beautiful parks and the facilities that are here, and I want our county to look at developing its lakefront in a similar manner,” said Skip Draper, an Orleans County legislator.

— October — Southern Tier Environments for Living appears ready to tackle one of its biggest projects in decades: the old Silver Creek school building that not only is an eyesore, but a potential hazard to those in the neighborhood.

— November — Within the last three months, three lawsuits have been filed against Fredonia. It is far from good news for the Village Board or its residents. Since 2021, the board is projected to spend nearly $400,000 on legal fees. With the recent filings, this amount could go even higher.


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