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Legislature OKs redoing South Dayton intersection

LITTLE VALLEY -- Cattaraugus County is going ahead with preparations to reconfigure a troublesome South Dayton intersection that qualifies for more than $300,000 in federal aid under the High Risk Rural Road program.

Lawmakers voted Wednesday to spend $160,000 for updating old engineering and design plans for the realignment of a sweeping curve at the County Road 57 and Bentley Road intersection near the hamlet of Markham. The upgrade has been considered a high-priority safety problem by Town of Dayton officials for more than a decade, despite several lawmakers who argued there have never been any accidents at that location.

"It was not the intersection, but it was motorists not obeying the signs," said Bucky McClune, D-Salamanca, who spoke against the project as "not worth it" and voted no along with Bill Sprague, D-Yorkshire, in the vote.

But Public Works Director David Rivet said that state and federal authorities have deemed the project worthy of funding despite several years of delay by legislators.

The expenditure includes $144,000 in money from the state and also represents more than half of the county's share of the $570,000 project. That cost exceeds the federal funding cap of $304,000. The county will have to purchase private property to expand the right of way.

In another matter, the Legislature handed $229,075 to the Cattaraugus County Federation of Snowmobilers. The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation provides the funds it collects in annual snowmobile registration fees. The county has acted as a sponsor for the funding since 2002, passing the money through to the federation and its nine member snowmobile clubs. Those clubs spend the award to maintain and develop about 368 miles of trails in the county.

Tom Hill, a federation representative, thanked the Legislature for sponsoring the award to boost the county's "niche" snowmobiling market that acts as a $25 million economic engine.

He then warned lawmakers that the Legislature's plans to spin off the county's Tourism Department to an independent contract agency will kill snowmobiling, discourage volunteers and create another layer of bureaucracy for obtaining grant funds. Hill also pointed to the potential loss of access to the county's landowner records and GPS mapping that are needed to obtain property owner permission for trails.

Hill was referring to the Development and Agriculture Committee's discussions about diverting annual tourism promotion grants from Chambers of Commerce to a contracted tourism bureau. The committee will hold a work session on that topic at 4 p.m. today, when Chambers will present their requests for promotional funding or support for a tourism bureau.

The Legislature then received a check for $121,025 from Ralph Vinciguerra of the Department of Defense for use in the county's Economic Development Department's Procurement Technical Assistance Center. For the past 21 years, these annual funding awards have enabled the center to provide staff and programs that match small businesses with government contracts. During 2008, Vinciguerra said, Cattaraugus County businesses received 90 awards under the network, totaling $13.23 million.

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