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Chautauqua County Legislature OKs $150,000 loan to bail out Forestville

MAYVILLE – The Chautauqua County Legislature Wednesday voted to give a $150,000 loan to the cash-strapped village of Forestville.

The loan, which carries a 3 percent interest rate, is due by June 15,2019. The village’s sales tax revenue would be garnished if payments are not made to the county by the deadline. 

County Legislator George Borrello, R-Silver Creek, said, “most primarily I am concerned about these hardworking residents of the village of Forestville.” 

He said the financial issues were inherited by the current Forestville leaders. Two loans were called in by Evans Bank in 2009. One loan for $250,000 was taken out in 2009 to pay for the demolition of a building on Main Street. The five-year note was due this year and board members had only made a single payment. Evans Bank decided to call in a second note for $150,000, which was provided in 2010 for the replacement of a water line on Bennett State Road.

The combined $400,000 is about four times the annual operating budget for the small village. Village officials were projecting a tax increase of more than 400 percent.

Forestville Mayor Kevin Johnson said he met with the village trustees Tuesday and they agreed to abide by any regulations attached to the loan for the village. “I would like to thank you from 800 souls who needed some help,” Johnson said. 

Among the speakers in support of the resolution was Doug Flowers, a Forestville resident who said he is a Carriage House employee and also stands to lose his job in the next year.  He said any financial help that could be provided would be greatly appreciated.  The closing of the Carriage House facility was announced in February. 

The stipulations to the agreement require the village to have a comprehensive audit of the past five years. It also requires that the Village Board seek funding to help pay for a study to look at options on consolidation, dissolution or shared services with other municipalities. The Village Board will also allow a committee of representatives, including County Executive Vince Horrigan, to look over the finances and policies of the village.

The vote was approved with 18 in favor and only Legislator Lisa VanStrom, R-West Ellicott, opposed. She explained after the session that she was uncomfortable with the county setting a precedent by loaning money to the village. She also stated that she had read the comptroller’s report and learned that there were other issues with village finances. 

Forestville’s trustees will announce a final budget and tax rate that has been recalculated after the loan is applied at a meeting at 7 p.m. on April 29.

In other matters, the Legislature approved and accepted a $130,00 grant from the federal Office of Emergency Services.  The funding will be used to reimburse volunteer firefighters for college tuition. Firefighters must have served at least five years and maintain a “C” average. 

Appointments were confirmed for Legislator Janet Keefe, D-Fredonia, to serve on the board of directors for Chautauqua Opportunities. Legislators Shaun Heenan, D-Dunkirk, and Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk, were named to the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau Board of Directors.