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Allegany County legislature “Committee of the Whole” meeting talks ARPA funding

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Renewables energy, staff bonuses, and funding to villages and towns lead to lively discussion

Listen to audio of tense moments from today’s debate

By Andrew Harris

The full board of legislators met today both behind closed doors to “discuss the employment history of a particular person,” and in open session.

In that open session the group of legislators held an open conversation with County Treasurer about American Rescue Plan Act(ARPA) funding balance. Currently, the county still has about $4 million dollars in the bank from that federal funding that needs to be spent or returned to the federal government.

A major methane production opportunity maybe on the horizon

Legislator John Ricci introduced a new and very interesting project that he felt was worthy of county funding. Bainbridge Farms, a large dairy farm in Allegany county has an opportunity to build a gas production facility which uses cow manure to create methane. Ricci explained that the $20 million dollar project has many benefits and meets state goals toward renewable energy production. While the project remains in the planning stages, Ricci reports that a electrical infrastructure upgrade may require financial assistance from the county. “This definately helps out the farmer,” said Ricci.

Legislator Fanton asked if the project would be dedicated to just Bainbridge or would other farms benefit.

“This would be our first renewable project using gas while we have, I think, 19 solar projects in this county in the works,” concluded Ricci.

Chairman W. Brooke Harris ended the discussion by telling county Treasurer Terri Ross to, “Add it to the list.”

Some county part-time employees to get a bonus

A lengthy discussion about what Chairmain W. Brooke Harris called a “board omission,” in awarding county employees a bonus followed. Legislator Jan Burdick of Alfred made the case that when the county awarded retention bonuses to most employees last year, they made a mistake in not awarding a bonus to all employees. About 74 county workers who work less than 20 hours per week did not receive any retention bonus. The board clearly acknowledges that was a mistake in hindsight and discussed a new round of retention bonuses for employees who were excluded last year. After a healthy group discussion, the committee agreed that legislator Burdick will work with the county treasurers office to develop a resolution to pay those bonuses for a vote at the next full board meeting.

Allocating funds to towns and villages

Requests from various municipalities for funding were next on the agenda. While most legislators seemed to agree that some of the ARPA funding should trickle back to municipalities, debate about how much followed. Legislator Cyr from District 3 was very vocal about giving every town and village $50,000.

“Towns and villages have a lot more struggles than the county,” Cyr noted.

Other legislators considered providing $25,000 to Allegany county municipalities, like Dwight Fanton also representing District 3 summarized that:

“In my mind $25,000 per is appropriate and $50,000 is overkill.”

Legislator Cyr continued to make a case for giving $50,000 to towns and villages. Cyr argued that $25,000 wouldn’t be impactful enough. “That might get you some street signs,” Cyr noted.

The difference in the total funding allocated to towns and villages would be $1 million dollars. According to county treasurer Terri Ross:

“It’s $1 milllion dollars to give $25,000 to all forty municipalities,” stated Treasurer Terri Ross, putting the price tag at $2 million dollars to provide $50,000 to all villages and towns.

Legislators Fanton and Healy both made the case for providing all towns with equal funding regardless of population.

Legislator Fanton then made a motion to draft a resolution approving $25,000 to all towns and villages in Allegany County. That motion was approved, with Cyr abstaining and requesting a motion to ammend the resolution to $50,000 per municipality. That motion did not recieve a second and Cyr requested time to make a statement on the record. Chairman Harris agreed to provide the floor to Cyr to make his statement to which Legislator Gary Barnes loudly objected, “Would you cut that out!”

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