MAYVILLE, NY – Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan has strong optimism and pride in the county, saying it will continue to celebrate success in 2016 while also tackling various challenges along the way.
On Wednesday night Horrigan delivered the 2016 state of the county to the Chautauqua County Legislature, spending half an hour detailing recent successes while also outlining his agenda for the current year.
Some of the highlights of the past year include returning the sales tax to 8 percent, which allowed the county to then cut the property tax by 6 percent. He also focused on the creation of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, which helped to find ways to reduce the local inmate population at the county jail. Other highlights included the finalization of the countywide shared services plan, the Northern Chautauqua County Water District, various economic development efforts, and continued work to improve the health of Chautauqua Lake.
But Horrigan also focused on several major challenges, including the mothballing of the NRG power plant in Dunkirk which could lead to the combined loss of up to $8 million in tax payments for the county, city of Dunkirk, and Dunkirk school district. Horrigan said NRG has already planned to reduce its PILOT payments, although he’s confident it wouldn’t have an immediate impact on local government.
“At this point I feel very confident that should NRG’s PILOT drop by $6.8 million as NRG has told us, we will be assisted through the state budget process to reduce the impact on the delivery of our critical services,” Horrigan said. “However, help will be transitional. It will be short term in nature and we have to have an endgame where we come out the other end of this with the right size structure.”
He also pointed to the current financial challenges of nearly every municipality in the county, including Jamestown, saying now more than ever the county needs to focus on shared services. As a result, he said he’ll create a Regional Solutions Commission, chaired by legislator George Borrello and including representatives from both local and state governments as well as the public and private sectors, to identify ways to share services and reduce the cost of running local government.
“The commission will be charged with facilitating public forums, identifying regional initiatives and then developing those initiatives into specific proposals for implementation. We will be tapping into the Governor’s municipal consolidation incentive funding which has been very helpful in achieving the successes we have seen in our 2015 regional solutions,” Horrigan said.
And Horrigan also pointed to the continued social and health challenges – including the heroin and opioid epidemic as well as poor nutrition and overall health for many residents. During his address, he acknowledged that more needs to be done if the county is to turn the corner on the drug crisis.
“In spite of progress in treatment, education, law enforcement, and mobilizing the public, we are struggling to find real progress,” Horrigan said. “I will continue to do everything I can in partnership with our health care providers, our law enforcement agencies, our judges, and our state and federal leaders to continue to fight this enemy of our community. We need all hands on deck including our families and faith based institutions to win this fight here in Chautauqua County.”
Horrigan also hinted at another major economic development opportunity, saying there have been talks about the possibility of bringing a major commercial vehicle parts manufacturer to the county. However, he also said that right now that project is in the early discussion phases and there’s no guarantee it will be a reality.