The Chautauqua County Legislature will act this month on 41 proposed projects that will be funded under $24.6 million in American Rescue Plan recovery funds. The Legislature held a special work session Wednesday to learn more about each project.
The largest of the proposed projects is $8.3 million for Phase 2 of the South & Center Chautauqua Lake Sewer District project. The County broke ground last week on Phase 1 of that project to supply sewer for 450 homes in the town of North Harmony. South & Center Chautauqua Lake Sewer District Director Tom Walsh said this project has been put under the second traunch of ARP funding in hopes that it can be funded by the Federal Infrastructure Bill that’s still pending in Congress.
Another year two project is $2.5 million to provide broadband high speed internet to underserved or unserved communities. Chautauqua County IDA CEO Mark Geise said they found how important internet is during COVID. He said the County would issue a request for proposal to internet service providers where an ISP would spend 50% of the cost to expand broadband to leverage the other 50% of funding from the county, “We might do it county wide or we might do it in segments because you have different providers that have more infrastructure in different areas. And evaluate it based on the cost per household served and see how many households they can serve with that funding.”
Under economic development, $1.5 million proposed to acquire shovel ready sites and $1.4 million to bring water and sewer infrastructure to those shovel ready sites is proposed. Geise said a study done by Newmark Frank of the nine county Western New York region found Chautauqua County was last in the region for shovel ready sites. He said the County has worked with Clark Patterson Lee to identify three sites in the north county to purchase, “You know, we’re negotiating right now with those land owners. So we need this funding. You know, the sites are going for anywhere between $10,000 per acre on a very low side, and I don’t think we’ll find any of that that are suitable, but certainly $20 to $30,000 an acre or more.”
The County is also looking at using $1.1 million to rehabilitate the Frank A. Bratt Ag Center building on Airport Hill. Public Facilities Director Brad Bentley said the building, which is owned by the county, is currently unused, “The building has good bones, but is in serious needs of repairs, some upgrades, and modernizations. It’s a large space for those who have been in there. It’s prime use for us would be as office space and I think it could actually be a good spot for a number of county organizations to land in once it’s improved and repairs are made.”
Bentley said there are county departments or offices that would be ready to move into the space after it’s renovated which could have a possible $200 to $300-thousand dollars savings in lease costs to the county.
Other large item proposals include $800,000 to bolster the Occupancy Tax Fund which was depleted due to lack of occupancy tax collected in 2020 because of the pandemic. $700,000 for the Healthy Homes Program is also proposed to be used to remove hazardous lead in 140 homes at a cost of $5,000 per home.
The County Legislature Committees will now review and make any needed changes at their meetings next week. The full Legislature is expected to vote on the package at its September 22nd meeting.