Reaction from legislators and Dr. Craig Clark at Alfred State College
Read official transcript from the meeting
By Andrew Harris
During the last meeting of the Allegany County committee overseeing County Planning and Economic Development, Legislator Dwight “Mike” Healy stated bluntly that he wanted to, “terminate the Alfred State contract immediately.”
The District 2 legislator’s terse demand was unexpected according to many of his fellow legislators, including Chairman Phil Stockin, who noted: “The comments by Legislator Healy last week came as a surprise to many of us as well. He was speaking for himself, not the board.”
Mr. Healy’s demand was very clear, “it is time to terminate the relationship with Alfred State.” Listen to the full statement below:
That statement during the public session of the County Legislature’s Planning and Economic Development Committee drew quick reaction from freshman legislator Jennifer Ricketts-Swales. Her immediate reaction was an open request to halt any discussion on the subject until Legislator Deb Root, the committee chair, was present. Root, who was not able to attend that meeting had a quick reaction to questions about Healy’s comments:
“I don’t think it’s a surprise that Mr. Healy is frustrated that, in his eyes, there has not been more forward motion in the economic development area. WE as a county don’t do enough to get the good news out….we are working on that….”
Dr. Craig Clark wears several hats in Allegany County and at Alfred State College as its Interim Provost and Vice-President of Academic Affairs. Dr. Clark provides executive services to the office of Planning and Development as Alfred State College an employee. He also serves as the Allegany County Industrial Development Agency (ACIDA) Executive Director. Because Mr. Healy has demanded an abrupt end to Dr. Clark’s Allegany County services via Alfred State College, we sought Dr. Clark’s reaction, who responded:
“The relationship having Alfred State and the county cooperate on economic development has resulted in economic development progress that includes having the ACIDA assisting on many county projects. The progress has been made based on working relationships within the county and in the state and nationally.
The ACIDA received the empty GE/Lufkin building and developed a relationship with PM Research to expand its business in the facility adjacent to the Wellsville Airport. We have been successful on installing the waterline from Friendship to the Crossroads that resulted in the privately constructed and successful travel center, the ACIDA is in the planning stages making the Crossroads site ready for additional development at the Crossroads that will include a hotel, restaurants and other business development. We have supported the transition of ARVOS Ljungström in Wellsville to its new offshore wind business through grants developed by Alfred State to support workforce development and training of almost $1 million dollars. The ACIDA is now reviewing a financial assistance of an ARVOS Ljungström project that will add 100 new employees.
The ACIDA has supported 14 small PV clean energy projects and working with developers on two large scale PV systems and one large scale wind project (all clean energy projects keep all land on the tax rolls and give taxing authorities additional “PILOT” money for the installed equipment).
The ACIDA has successfully implemented a $200,000 [Community Block Development Grant] microenterprise grant helping 7 microenterprises with grant funds, working with county on a much larger CBDG grant for small businesses with less than 25 employees, we continue to get the word out about Allegany County and the “WNY Wilds” as a place to live and start a business through digital marketing.
We continue to work with the Wellsville Business park including working on projects in development by Empire State Development and Invest Buffalo Niagara to place tenants in the park. We also continue to work with the Village of Wellsville and the owners of the Kmart Plaza in Wellsville on adding retail to the facility. We have worked on many other projects and continue to develop projects working with connections developed over the years.”
Legislator Healy was asked multiple times to clarify his comments but did not respond to the Wellsville Sun requests. Mr. Healy did appear to stand by his comments, clarifying some of his specific concerns, in a missive he sent to fellow legislators yesterday:
“Economic development that is a positive investment and would provide a ‘real return’ for all, our taxpayers, and not just ‘Pork,’ for one area or another, and/or one person, place, group, or another.
1. More Crossroads development- further land acquisition, and upgrade of services, utilities, etc. there
2. Other I-86 corridor development- including parallel routes like CR-20, etc.
3. Real Manufacturing & Job Development – not just the smoke & mirror BS [sic] that has been the previous results of our contract with Alfred State over the last 10+/- years.”
Background conversations with several legislators indicate a general lack of support for Healy’s desired divorce from Alfred State. Many board members were particularly concerned that Mr. Healy’s comments failed to distinguish between the county planning office and the economic development office. Planning efforts, led by Kier Dirlam, may fall under the same legislative committee but are a totally separate department, unaffiliated with Alfred State College. Reportedly, Mr. Dirlam confronted Mr. Healy after his public statement, and we asked him about that exchange:
“I told him that if he has an issue with the Planning Department he knows he can come talk to me anytime. He indicated he had mis-spoke when he said ‘Planning and Development’ when he was specifically speaking about the Development contract with Alfred State College.”
The demanded divorce is likely to be at the forefront of topics during the upcoming May 4 Committee of the Whole and the “legislators retreat” on Tuesday May 3, 2022 at Houghton College. *Update, The May 4 Committee of the Whole has been cancelled.
Today Allegany County released the official minutes from the meeting on April 20th.