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Picnics, credit cards and the race for Erie County executive

The candidates for Erie County executive have found all sorts of ways to disagree.

Parking spaces, short-term borrowing and library funding are just a few of the items over which County Executive Chris Collins and County Comptroller Mark C. Poloncarz have clashed in the years they've shared the Rath Building.

They even quarreled in 2009 over whether the county should foot the bill for a $416 fridge from Rosa's.

The latest: Who's responsible for implementing an online reservation system that lets people rent a park shelter and pay for it with a credit card.

Collins touted the system as an initiative of the Lean Six Sigma corporate efficiency program he brought to county government in an interview with The News.

"It's a Lean Six Sigma program, which my opponent doesn't think works," Collins told The News. "We know which shelter is being rented. We make sure it's clean."

Poloncarz's spokesman wasted no time in criticizing Collins for taking credit for what he claimed was actually a "collaborative effort" between the Comptroller's Office and the Department of Parks.

"Since this electronic payments program for parks was actually initiated by the Comptroller's Office and not a Six Sigma project, I guess we should take Collins' praise of the program's efficiency as a compliment,"said Poloncarz spokesman Peter Anderson.

So who's right?

It turns out, they both are, sort of.

The reservation system was an early initiative of Collin's Six Sigma program. The News wrote about it in 2008 -- as well as the fact that it didn't work out so well for one picnicking family.

But Poloncarz, whose official responsibilities include collecting money owed to the county, did lead the effort to implement the electronic payment system that finally let county residents pay by credit card.

It was Poloncarz's office that sent out a request for proposals from banks to provide the payment service.

So go ahead and plan your family picnic online -- thanks to your candidates for county executive.

--Denise Jewell Gee

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