MAYVILLE – Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello used his annual State of the County report to emphasis a need for continued collaboration within the county.
On Wednesday night Borrello appeared before the Chautauqua County Legislature to update lawmakers on his vision for 2019 while also highlighting accomplishments from 2018, his first year in office.
“There is a positive energy and attitude that can be felt in our communities throughout the county. This past year we started changing our attitude and improving our collective self-confidence and we will continue to raise the bar in 2019 and beyond. 2018 was about communication and now, in 2019, we will take what we learned to enhance collaboration,” Borrello said.
Some of the collaborative efforts Borrello focused on included increasing collaboration and communication in local and regional public safety via the CAER (Countywide Alliance for Enforcement and Rehabilitation) Initiative, getting various communities to work together to improve economic development, identifying and working toward consolidation and shared services efforts between various communities in the county, and improving the connection between the local job market and education institutions to ensure a ready workforce.
CHAUTAUQUA LAKE REMAINS A KEY FOCUS
Borrello also spent time focusing on Chautauqua Lake, saying his goal in 2019 is to create a consensus between all stakeholders that will be highlighted in an official memo of understanding and which would be used to help steer funding for lake management.
“Despite the divisiveness we may see among the passionate lake organizations, I’ve found that there is more common ground than it may appear, especially after personally meeting with these groups,
individually, and listening to their concerns. What I saw was a series of puzzle pieces that could make up a strategy to break the gridlock and move us forward,” Borrello noted. “The Consensus Strategy will involve a series of action steps and tenets that will be outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding. We will be asking all of the major stakeholders to sign onto this M.O.U., which will essentially be a ‘ceasefire agreement’ that the lake groups and municipalities would participate in so that we can move forward, together, with an action plan for in-lake weed management while not losing sight of the long-term strategy needed to truly cure the disease that the lake suffers from.”
Following the Legislature Meeting, County Legislature Chair Paul “PJ” Wendel (R-Lakewood) said he was happy to see Borrello further elaborate on his plan for the lake.
“I really commend George…. He used the term ‘cease fire.’ You don’t like to use those terms, it’s a little tough, but on the other hand it’s a great point that everyone needs to bury the hatchet and move forward. They are very passionate people who care about Chautauqua Lake and are involved in its maintenance and survivability, but realistically we have to work together and that collaboration effort is a huge piece,” Wendel said.
GATEWAY CENTER IN RIPLEY
Another major highlight of his report was Borrello’s vision to create a Gateway Center in the town of Ripey on I-90, at the entrance to New York State. He said the center would be patterned after a similar welcome center facility in West Virginia called Tamarack and would be used to highlight all that the region has to offer.
“This will not be a place where you simply stop to use the restroom and get a coupon book or a map. It will be a truly functional and fantastic place that will feature the best of what Western New York and the Southern Tier has to offer,” Borrello noted. “From local artisans showing and selling their wares to a place where many of our region’s agricultural and manufacturing are not only represented but will have their products available for sale. It will be a place where our prospering beer, wine and spirits businesses can feature their brands and encourage people to explore our breweries, wineries and other unique food and beverage options. This Gateway Center will be a place where the history and natural beauty of our county and region is highlighted for those who have never experienced all there is to do and see in the beautifully unparalleled place that we call home.”
Borrello also cautioned that it will take time to develop a plan for the gateway and it’s not something that will be created overnight, but also said he hopes that it can be something that would be completed within the next 5 years. The county IDA just hired the consulting firm Clark Patterson Lee to produce a feasibility study for the gateway study.
COUNTY AIRPORT NOT MENTIONED
One of the items that was omitted from Borrello’s State of the County was the Chautauqua County Airport in Jamestown, which took a hit earlier this year with the announcement it wouldn’t be granted federal funding to help subsidize commercial passenger service.
Borrello told WRFA that while he omitted the airport from his state of the county, it’s still something that remains on his radar.
“The Department of Transportation gave us some good feedback. We’re now working with Boutique to modify the application and resubmit it. So there wasn’t much information to give tonight but I think soon we will be able to resubmit a modified application and return commercial service to the Jamestown airport,” Borrello said.
The county airport has been without passenger service since January 2018. Since then the county has partnered with air service provider Boutique Air to put a plan together for commercial service but it hasn’t been enough to bring back the necessary federal subsidies.