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COUNTY Legislature missing true transparency

The change Chautauqua County has made to the way it bills towns and cities for worker’s compensation charges makes sense.

Basing the charge more on the wages paid to a municipality’s workforce is more logical than using a municipality’s population, and it provides an incentive to local governments participating in the county’s plan to keep their payroll as low as possible through shared services and contract negotiations. That’s especially true of Dunkirk and Jamestown.

But Chautauqua County took a page out of the state’s playbook by arriving at the right answer through a series of comically incorrect steps. If a letter sent by Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas and Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist is true, then the county didn’t tell the two cities it was increasing their costs before the mayors read the stories in the newspaper. The county could have at least sent a form letter to the cities explaining the change and asking for input. Had the state foisted a similar change upon the county, we’re sure county legislators and Executive PJ Wendel would have been angry. Officials in both cities have a right to be upset by the lack of notification.

Then, county officials and the Chautauqua County Legislature had ample opportunity to right their wrong by phasing in the new, higher payments. Instead, they chose to make the change effective Jan. 1 ostensibly because the cities had been benefitting from the old system for decades. That argument is as solid as a wet cardboard box. Every time the state throws an additional cost onto county government, there are screams and howls about the county’s limited budget and effect on taxpayers. But doing the exact same thing to Dunkirk, Jamestown and, to a lesser extent, the village of Westfield is hunky dory with the legislators — including a few who represent the cities and village.

We hear a lot about how much the Chautauqua County Legislature is working together for the betterment of county residents. But what good is working together inside the legislative chambers of the spirit if cooperation doesn’t extend outside the Gerace Office Building’s walls?

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