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Cattaraugus County Legislature OKs plan for woodlands manager

LITTLE VALLEY – The Cattaraugus County Legislature Wednesday gave its support to a plan pitched by a couple of professors from the SUNY School of Environment and Forestry Sciences in Syracuse who are hoping to create a new product in the wooded land of Cattaraugus County.

Lawmakers approved a resolution to pay Seneca RC&D to act as a consultant at a cost of $70,000 over two years.

But the approval came only after several legislators made it clear they are skeptical about the idea, which has been debated several times in recent weeks.

The professors propose to manage the woodlands, harvesting the poor quality hardwoods to create new products for power generation and a few other uses. The lead professors have come to the county and described what it is that they want to do, how they want to do it, and about how long they anticipate it would take to get the plan up and running.

“Based on the numbers we have been presented, I do not believe this plan will stand on its own,” Legislator Joe Snyder, Jr., R-Cuba, said. “While I do think it is possible to find some funding for the project, I do not think it is wise to support this plan until (the scientists) are able to find what they need.”

Snyder is employed by a Cattaraugus County business that specializes in wood, wood products and forestry.

The plan calls for a five-year time table before anything would even start in Cattaraugus County, and that is another point of contention for Snyder.

“They are going to build their site in Allegany County first,” he reminded the legislators. “It is going to take two to three years to get the funding lined up for the project. In year four, the station will be built. It won’t be until year five that we are seeing if these numbers play out. A consultant in years one and two are not going to yield any results. We are premature on this project.”

He was not alone in his sentiment. Legislator James Snyder Sr., R-Olean, said that, if it were his money, he would not invest any of it in this program, and he surely would not vote to invest that of the taxpayers, either, despite the funds coming from its casino revenue share to the county.

“This would be one hell of a gamble, to take $70,000 and use it like this,” he said.

James Boser, D-Allegany, countered, “We are not spending the taxpayers’ money; it is casino revenue. Of course it’s a good gamble.”

A vote to send the resolution back to committee failed, keeping the bill on the floor, with Susan Lebuhn, D-Salamanca, pointing out that the bill can go back to committee only to come out again and then find its way back into committee.

“You can’t keep sending it back,” she said. “We have all had ample time to ask questions. I believe this is going to happen, but I am not in favor of sending it back to committee.

In a roll call vote, the resolution passed by weighted vote, 13.173 to 5.6588, with Olean Legislators Earl McElfresh, Linda Edstrom and Snyder Sr. joined by Yorkshire Legislator William Sprague and Limestone Legislator Carl Edwards voting against the resolution.