Use of casino funds to upgrade Olean awaits discussion by Cattaraugus lawmakers - The Buffalo News

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Use of casino funds to upgrade Olean awaits discussion by Cattaraugus lawmakers

LITTLE VALLEY – Plans for Cattaraugus County’s use of income expected from casino slot-machine revenue have been tabled for consideration by the Legislature.

Legislator Dan Hale, R-Portville, has suggested that the county’s share of the casino funds should be spent on making Olean a tourist destination that would attract more travelers and the economic boost that they would provide.

Hale described Olean as “the gem of the county.”

He told fellow legislators, “As the city goes, so goes the county.”

Hale’s proposal is to figure out a way to fund the City of Olean with $1 million, to be used in conjunction with the redevelopment of North Union Street under the recent award of $6.5 million in a federal grant to create destination points that would bring people from other areas into Olean, increasing the number of reasons for people to visit the city.

Hale also proposed using $500,000 to make the Olean Farmers’ Market a destination point of its own.

“Olean plays a large role in the county,” Hale said, “but it needs some help.”

In the last few years, the City of Olean has incurred a large loss of jobs, with the closure of Dal-Tile, the former Olean Tile, within the last 18 months. The closure has left a more than 100,000-square-foot facility empty.

For the last few decades, the former Manufacturers Hanover Bank building at State and Union streets has remained vacant, with very few serious offers for redevelopment. Such situations create an atmosphere that discourages developers, Hale said.

“Let’s say there is a business that is looking to expand,” he said.

“The owner takes a look at the computer and sees that old tile plant, takes a look at the price and the incentives for relocation to the area. He comes and looks at it. You know what he’s going to say? He is going to leave it without an offer, even though it would be the perfect spot.

“There is nothing to do in Olean. How is he going to attract those high-level executives to come to the area? Where is his wife going to shop or have coffee with her friends?”

These problems have been discussed by city officials at various times, with little in the way of results. Hale said the federal grant for the redevelopment of North Union is one of the strongest avenues for change that can lead to growth in the city and help bring more people to the county.

“We hear about the parking and the roundabouts,” Hale said. “Those are local issues, and not what I am concerned with. As far as the concept, I think they got it right.

“If we are not going to invest in our own municipality, who is? Right now, we don’t have a policy on this. We don’t have any direction.

“Let’s put a rudder in the water.”

The resolution will not move beyond committee discussion any time soon, as members of the legislative committee begin to talk about possible controls on an amount as large as $1 million.

In subsequent meetings, committee members also are expected to discuss the idea of opening up the entire county for a similar program.

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