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County executive calls for regional solutions in State of County address

March 10, 2016
By Jimmy McCarthy ( , Westfield Republican

MAYVILLE - County Executive Vince Horrigan is calling for more regional solutions.

During the State of the County address in February, Horrigan unveiled his plans to form a Regional Solutions Commission. Chaired by Legislator George Borrello, R-Irving, Horrigan said the commission will identify, develop and implement shared service and consolidation proposals. Horrigan said the commission will seek out regional solutions in public safety, infrastructure and municipal government.

"I think people are looking to me for leadership," Horrigan said. "I watched the North County Water District evolve over time. I watched Forestville and what we had to do, unfortunately, in crisis. We're not here to say you should, but we're here to say here's our process and who has some ideas. We hear Sinclairville talking. We hear Sherman talking. There's been some discussions in Silver Creek."

Horrigan's push for regional solutions comes months after residents in Forestville voted to dissolve the village into the town of Hanover. After years of work, seven municipalities in northern Chautauqua County joined together to form the North County Water District.

Moving forward, Borrello said one of his initial tasks will be to identify experts in the areas of emergency services, municipal government and public safety. Borrello, who assisted Forestville through the dissolution process alongside village officials, said the commission will look to bring information to the people who need it the most.

"I'm truly proud and honored to chair this commission," Borrello said. "It's all about solutions. We looked at a lot of situations. We talked to stakeholders like Southern Tier West and organizations like the Center for Governmental Research. We asked them what can we do to make the situation better. Going above and beyond what state law says and finding out what we can do is going to be our task and goal."

Commission members will include representatives from the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce, Northern Chautauqua County Economic Development Committee, Mayors and Supervisors Association, private business leaders and county citizens.

"I want to be the one to bring people together. I want to take this and work at this for the next two years in our administration. We have to do this. We can't talk about it any longer," Horrigan said.

The county executive also took time to note several accomplishments witnessed in 2015, including work to enact a historic property tax cut and reducing County Jail inmate numbers. The county executive said the loss of NRG's tax payments will financially impact the county, city of Dunkirk and the Dunkirk City School District. Aging infrastructure, a waning manufacturing sector and drug addiction will continue to pose challenges in 2016.

Other priorities for Horrigan and the county will include implementing a sewer system around Chautauqua Lake, defending a lawsuit from the town of Ellery against the County Landfill and working with Fredonia to connect the village to the North County Water District.

Horrigan said the county's future is dependent upon retaining and attracting businesses, workforce development and successfully implementing ICE 8, a coordinated school health program in all county school districts. Securing state funding for projects including "Chautauqua North" will be vital moving into the Consolidated Funding Application process. The regional project involves Fredonia, Dunkirk and SUNY Fredonia. Horrigan said Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas, Fredonia Mayor Athanasia Landis and Virginia Horvath, president for SUNY Fredonia, were brought together to look at a "transformational project" to reinvigorate the area.

"When you look at the Dunkirk harborfront, we have some private investors who are really looking at that," Horrigan said. "If we can put together government and the private sector together, with that harborfront and 900 jobs coming (with Athenex), it only makes sense. We need to do more than just a little project here and there."

Horrigan also noted that an interested vehicle parts manufacturer is considering Chautauqua County as a destination. Horrigan said the lead came from Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, a nonprofit marketing organization providing economic development assistance to companies looking to do business in western New York.



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