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The County Beat: Part 1, July 21st Committee Meetings

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From Amie Acton, 7/24/21

Wednesday’s Resource Management Committee started with a report from Director of Soil and Water Conservation Scott Torrey. His department had been busy with grant writing and dealing with stream and flooding issues due to recent deluges of rain throughout Allegany County. The department had recently put out to bid a contract to harvest timber from the Bennett lot, one of the county-owned plots of land. Unfortunately, no bids were received and the plans have stalled until a property dispute with a neighboring landowner is resolved. Torrey was hopeful this would happen by year’s end, as the Emerald Ash Borer has so far left this lot of trees untouched. Legislator Healy (2) expressed concerns about potential damage caused by the Gypsy Moth population. Gypsy Moths, an invasive species originating in France, have been making headlines across the Northeast this year as their record numbers swarm and ravage acres of previously healthy trees. While most trees are likely to survive this unceremonious undressing, there are still concerns for the health of the trees. Torrey didn’t have any immediate answers to Mr Healy’s question and, after promising to get back to Mr Healy with more information, Torrey indicated his doubt of the existence of a cost-effective preventative measure that would be appropriate for this area.

Up next Brian Perkins, Director of the Youth Bureau and the StopDWI Coordinator, gave a brief report on receipt of operating funds for the next calendar year, noting an increase of several thousand dollars. No applications for serving on the Governor’s Youth Council were received before the recent deadline though Perkins had some potentially promising leads. Perkins shared he has spent most of the week at the Allegany County Fair staffing the traffic safety booth in the exhibition hall and noted good participation from attendees. Lastly, Perkins will be doing a bike safety event during the summer rec program in Andover.

The final presenter for the meeting was Laura Hunsberger from the Cornell Cooperative Extension. Hunsberger gave an overview of the fair, noting how quickly they had been able to pull everything together. Legislator Harris (5) wanted further information on 4H participation rates for this year as the 4H building was noticeably less full than previous years. Hunsberger replied that, like so many other fair-related things, this was due to timing. Normally 4Hers would start putting together projects and presentations in January, owing to the fact that many of these projects are very involved. Because New York State was slow in allowing fairs to go forward, many of these projects just didn’t come together in time which doesn’t necessarily reflect a downward trend in 4H participation. With reports of high gate counts this week, it appears the Allegany County Fair is definitely back.

The Budget Committee Meeting was rather short though it was full of spreadsheets and printouts. County Treasurer Terri Ross reported encouraging growth in sales tax revenue, both in year to date and comparison figures. Compared to this time last year, the county has taken in $535K more. Legislators asked Ross if she was able to attribute this significant bump to any specific source, Ross speculated it was a combination of online sales tax and an increase in fuel purchases, possibly connected to the new Quicklee’s at the Crossroads. Upon a question from Mr Barnes (4) it was confirmed that 2021 numbers were higher than 2020 numbers which were, in turn, higher than 2019 numbers. All of which were encouraging facts. Overall, Ross stated that the county has taken in $2.7 million more in tax revenue than previous. Unfortunately at this point in the meeting the audio cut out and, as of the writing of this article, had not been restored to the uploaded video. An update will be written as soon as minutes from this meeting are released.

The Planning and Economic Development Committee again had a full plate at their meeting which began with a presentation by Assistant Director of Economic Development and Planning Michelle Denhoff. The Planning Department is currently putting together an online marketing campaign building off of the Western New York Wilds brand called “Wild Souls Wild Places”. Denhoff showed a short proof of concept video containing interviews with various residents of the county with stories of why they chose to come here, or come back, and why they choose to stay. The goal is to have the final videos finished and up by late summer or early fall.

Reita Sobeck-Lynch, Director of Employment and Training, was next to speak. Allegany County has an unemployment rate of 4.6%, a notable decrease from the 11% reported this time last year. Sobeck-Lynch requested approval to fill a position recently vacated by promotion. The salary for this position, Job Developer, is 80% paid for by federal funding and stated to be a necessary replacement hire.

Gretchen Hanchett, Director of Greater Allegany County Chamber of Commerce (GACCC) wasn’t present as she was staffing a booth at the fair though her report was submitted in which she provided updates on tourism projects such as multiple trail projects and Fresh Air Adventures, a collaborative promotion between 5 counties in the region. Her report also helpfully provided a schedule of upcoming events in the county from farmer’s markets to events at Tall Pines ATV Park to the Allegany County Senior Picnic.

Craig Clark, Director of Economic Development and the IDA, provided a report that hinted of promise but didn’t commit. Clark said he remains optimistic about some possibilities in the Wellsville Business Park, the former Dresser Rand facility. Clark also has an upcoming meeting with a developer to discuss the possibility of putting up a hotel at the Crossroads at I-86. Mr Healy (2) inquired as to a facility for electronics manufacturing, taking into consideration the current shortage of chips worldwide. Specifically referencing the Tracewell Building, a facility near Cuba owned by the Seneca Nation. While there are no immediate bites on the facility, Clark remained optimistic about future potential, in part due to Seneca Nation’s willingness to work with the county. Mr Barnes (4) brought up an article in the Olean Times Herald regarding the new plans of Great Lakes Cheese to build a facility in Cattaraugus County. Clark replied that while the company was still in communications with Allegany County about other potential sites their main focus was the site in Catt County. It was clear that Clark would have rather been bringing good news to the committee on that subject.

Appointments to the Land Bank and Allegany County Telecommunications Development Corporation were re-upped: David Evans, Edward Zalar, and Carissa Knapp to the former  and Craig Clark, H Kier Dirlam, Charles Jessup, Legislator Root, and Jerry Scott to the latter.

Just before adjournment Mr Dibble (3) mentioned a group hoping to bring passenger trains back to the area so there could be a line from NYC to Binghamton, Elmira, Corning, Hornell, and Olean. No further information, however, was provided. Mr Dibble, can you tell us more?

The Ways and Means Committee had a relatively short meeting. All present voted to pay the bills and a motion to change the date of a board meeting in September was passed. Referrals from other committees included the request to create 2 positions for the Office of the Aging and the request to fill a vacant position in the Employment and Training Department. Both were approved and the meeting adjourned.

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