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O'Brien back as chairman of Legislature ; Calls on all parties to work together

Cattaraugus County Legislator Michael T. O'Brien, chosen for a second term as chairman Wednesday, called on legislators, employees, unions and taxpayers to work together for the betterment of the county.

During a reorganization meeting Wednesday in the County Center, leaders took on their new roles and, in acceptance speeches, offered ideas about county operations.

O'Brien praised county departments for helping other municipalities during emergencies in 2010, including a May fire in Salamanca, recent flooding around Portville and more than 50 inches of snow last month in Randolph.

Noting 2011 is an election year for all 21 legislators, O'Brien said they will have to face redistricting. All but three legislators are eligible to seek repeat four-year terms.

Restricted by term limits are Carmen A. Vecchiarella, R-Salamanca; E. James Ellis, R-East Otto; and Vergilio L. Giardini, D-Allegany.

The precarious financial forecast from Albany will continue to cloud finances, and O'Brien said the county will lose $1.9 million in Medicaid reimbursements and by July face paying 50 percent of the total costs.

In all, O'Brien said state and federal mandates dictate 77 percent of the county's total budget of $212 million.

Heading the Finance Committee is Legislature Vice Chairman Jerry E. Burrell, R-Franklinville. A former sheriff, Burrell is familiar with budget preparations and replaces Vecchiarella.

In his acceptance speech, Burrell pointed to the lack of $1.2 million in revenue from the Seneca casino for 2009-10, because of a stalemate between the tribe and state.

O'Brien said he has charged the nine-member Strategic Planning Committee to conduct a study through April on the duplication of services provided by the county through satellite offices or duplicate job titles. The study may provide some cost-cutting ideas, he said.

Also, O'Brien today will consider requests received from legislators for committee assignments, which he expects to announce this week.

In other matters, legislators:

*Approved a contract for part-time public employees of local Civil Service Unit 1000, which provides a 2.75 percent wage increase for this year and a 3 percent hike for 2012.

*Authorized the renewal of a contract for two years with the City of Salamanca for a share of slot machine proceeds from the Seneca Allegany Casino, using a previously agreed formula. The current contract expired Dec. 31.

*Appointed three people to the Board of Health: Dr. Andrew Klaczynski of Allegany and James Lapey of Salamanca, until Dec. 31, 2016, and Georgina Paul of Perrysburg, to Dec. 31, 2015, replacing Vernon Saile.

*Named Dorothy Button of West Valley, Thomas Ploetz of Delevan and Donald Steward Jr. of Conewango Valley to three-year terms on the Fire Advisory Board, through Dec. 31, 2013.

It was the first meeting for newly appointed County Attorney Thomas C. Brady of Great Valley, who will earn an annual salary of $110,396. He replaces Dennis V. Tobolski who retired on Tuesday.

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