SALAMANCA – Congressman Tom Reed (R-Corning, NY 23) is continuing his criticism of Governor Andrew Cuomo and state officials for allowing its dispute with the Seneca Nation over casino revenue to have an adverse impact on residents and local communities.
On Wednesday Reed held his weekly conference call with local media and was joined by officials from Salamanca to point out how the ongoing dispute has now become a matter of life and death for the Cattaraugus County city.
Salamanca is in dire need of expanding its emergency services department in order to better care for the 5,000 residents living in the city along with the outlying areas it also serves. That includes hiring two more firefighters as well as purchasing an additional EMS vehicle for its fleet.
According to Salamanca officials, the Governor’s office had promised to deliver $6 million this year that was owed to the city due to a casino revenue sharing compact Albany made with the Senecas over a decade ago involving the Seneca Allegany Casino. However, due to an ongoing dispute between the state and the Senecas, the Seneca Nation is now withholding the casino profits from the state, which means they can not be redistributed back to the hosting municipalities, including Salamanca.
Congressman Reed said that regardless of any disputes between the state and the Senecas, the Governor’s office needs to stand by its pledge of getting the city the money it is owed. He also pointed out that even though the city of Niagara Falls is in a similar situation with the Seneca Niagara Casino, it hasn’t stopped the state from getting that city $5 million it was owed under the revenue sharing deal.
Reed says the governor, a Democrat, is playing politics with the city of Salamanca, which not only has a Republican mayor in office, but also one who is a member of the Seneca Nation.
During the call, Salamanca Fire Chief Nick Bocharski shared how someone died last week in Salamanca due to cardiac arrest because of a lack of emergency responders caused by budget shortfalls.
Only one firefighter was available in Salamanca to respond to the call and perform what life saving measures he could by himself. The firefighter had to wait to transport the person suffering from cardiac arrest until the other ambulance could return because they cannot transport without two people staffing, Bocharski explained.
“We had an individual last week who was in cardiac arrest while our ambulance was on the way to the hospital on a separate call. We only had one paramedic left in the city,” Bocharski said. “Our ambulance 20 miles away has to try to turn around in Olean to try to get back to the scene to try to help this person. Unfortunately, this person passed away, even after being revived, due to a 29-minute delay.
“Governor, this falls directly in your lap,” Bocharski concluded.
“It is clear the Governor has taken this political spat with the Seneca Nation too far,” Reed added. “It is time for the Governor to end this dispute. Deliver the funds before someone else dies and resolve the unrelated Seneca dispute in the appropriate forum. We are happy to mediate if needed.”
According to the Buffalo News, officials with the state Division of the Budget say the real fault for Salamanca’s problems lies with the city’s leaders. Unlike officials in Niagara Falls, Salamanca leaders did not directly ask for help in covering the budget hole, when the Seneca Nation stopped making payments to the state out of its casino revenues.
Wednesday’s conference call was just Reed’s latest effort to pressure Cuomo to resolve the dispute with the Senecas. Last week, Reed asked the Department of Justice to investigate whether Cuomo’s administration was deliberately neglecting a crumbling section of the Thruway that crosses the Senecas’ Cattaraugus reservation.