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Chautauqua County executive unveils new program in annual address

MAYVILLE – Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan hopes to start a new program called “Chautauqua Thrives,” which would pull together private business, nonprofits and the local colleges in a business incubator model.

Horrigan outlined the concept Wednesday in delivering his State of the County address before the County Legislature.

“We have much work to do to retain grass roots support,” he said. “We must grow Chautauqua County with what I am calling ‘Operation Jump Start,’ ” he said. He said this will include shared services, linking coalitions and having projects that involve the private sector. “The key to tax relief is growth in our tax rate not raising taxes,” he said.

The county is faced with the recent announcement of the closing of the Carriage House plant in Fredonia and other warehouses now owned by ConAgra and the loss of 425 jobs in the next year.

Horrigan said he will promote small, locally owned business and said he is in early discussions with a potential food processing company that is interested in the location that ConAgra will be vacating within the next year.

“We have much work to do to improve our economic climate,” he said. “This reminds us we must do everything possible to retain our jobs. This includes frequent visits to operators who do not have their headquarters in Chautauqua County.”

He also pledged to support the retention of Lake Shore Hospital in Irving and said he is working closely with the county Health Department and others to try to keep the hospital.

He noted that in recent years, $5 million has been saved in the Health and Human Services Department. He said the case loads have been streamlined. He said new job readiness training programs and workforce development in the department is a “bright spot.”

Horrigan said he is committed to make the North Chautauqua County Water District work. It will be helped by a $1 million grant will help to promote the regional water district.

He also said the landbank program is a breakthrough to help rid derelict homes from Jamestown, Dunkirk and in rural areas. Homes will be demolished, the land will be resold and returned to the tax rolls. Horrigan said that 40 homes in Jamestown, and another 20 each in Dunkirk and rural areas will be demolished with funds in the program.

The county executive thanked the county’s emergency services team and said that the recent drill on Chautauqua Lake was a huge success that resulted in hundreds of people being trained in ice rescue.

Horrigan recognized Bill Daly, director of the county industrial development agency, who announced his retirement. The Legislature will start a search to replace him. Horrigan said he will begin by looking within the region for a replacement.

“At the end of this year we project that our reserves will drop to three percent,” he said. He said he expects there will be a deficit due to mandated spending and other increased costs. “Unlike past years we don’t have enough reserves to bridge the gap,” he said.

He said the sale of the Chautauqua County Home will help with the budget issues but cautioned that the county will need to look for other ways to save money.

The regular legislative agenda included a resolution to accept the contract with the CSEA union representing 112 county jail workers. The agreement called for 2 percent wage increase through 2017 and health insurance benefits. The resolution was approved with a vote of 12 to 6. The major contract with about 1,200 other county workers has not been finalized this year.

The Legislature approved receiving a grant of $400,000 from the Seneca Nation of Indians to fund a full-time school resource officer at Silver Creek Central School. The funds are meant to cover the wages and salary of a Chautauqua County Sheriff’s deputy through the end of 2016.