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Chautauqua County executive’s message hits highs, lows

For the first half of his annual State of the County address Wednesday evening to the Chautauqua County Legislature meeting in Mayville, County Executive Vincent W. Horrigan delivered an upbeat message of fiscal progress and economic development.

Horrigan cited a balanced county budget, cuts in the sales tax and property taxes and a reduction in costs and overcrowding at the County Jail through treatment programs and alternatives to incarceration.

He praised the formation of the North Chautauqua Water District, one of his major goals.

“This effort took years to accomplish and has set the stage for major economic development in the North County,” he said, “as evidenced by the announced plans of Athenex to build a state-of-the-art pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in the Town of Dunkirk, yielding hundreds of high-tech jobs.”

Construction will begin this summer on the district, which will provide City of Dunkirk water to six surrounding rural municipalities, he noted. Plans also are being made to connect the Village of Fredonia to the system.

Horrigan also acknowledged progress on an integrated sewer plan to keep phosphorus and sediments out of Chautauqua Lake.

After the high points of the “Celebrating Our Successes” portion of his address, a more sobering outlook prevailed in the section that followed, which he called “Facing Our Realities.”

The biggest challenge, he noted, is the uncertain future of the NRG electric power plant in Dunkirk.

“Needless to say,” he pointed out, “the loss of up to $8 million in tax payments will cut deep into the City of Dunkirk, the Dunkirk City School District and Chautauqua County budgets.”

To meet that challenge and other budgetary restraints, he said municipal governments must look for ways to consolidate services and look for regional solutions to their problems.

“I firmly believe the time is right and the citizens of Chautauqua County are ready for serious discussions on shared services, regional initiatives and consolidations,” he concluded.