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County Executive Edwards shifts funds again

August 16, 2011
Westfield Republican
Well, there he goes again.

The county is taking money from one group instead of another to pay for a lake level monitoring station and along comes Chautauqua County Executive Gregory Edwards to claim that adds up to a cost savings.

It is a small amount — just $8,180. It pays for the gauges and reporting system to monitor the water level of Chautauqua Lake. The information is used by the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities to operate Warner Dam in the lake outlet, the Chadakoin River.

The county Planning Department had been paying the cost, which put it on taxpayers countywide. In a sleight of hand to shift the cost, Edwards recently asked the South and Center Chautauqua Lake Sewer District to pay for it. That puts the cost on just property owners within the southern lake basin who are served by the sewer district.

In a letter to the sewer district, Edwards cited the cost shift and wrote, “My efforts have saved the county money, including the recent proposal I made to have the (sewer) districts pay the $8,180 cost to monitor the level of Chautauqua Lake that is used in part to confirm that the (sewer) districts can discharge into the outlet. Previously this cost was born by the Department of Planning which now as accepted by your board will cut the costs to property taxpayers by $8,180. As you can see, I take my job very seriously to improve services, cut costs, and manage all of the employees of Chautauqua County in a way to assure that every department, every employee, and every taxpayer benefits from the decisions that I am called upon to make on a daily basis.”

But shifting the cost just to those who pay sewer fees does not make sense.

The lake monitoring station was set up in the first place as part of federally funded flood control projects after the remnants of Hurricane Agnes churned through the area in June 1972.

Some of you may remember it was a killer storm. Heavy rains pushed Chautauqua Lake quickly to its flood stage and 60 mph winds sunk hundreds of boats and took out most of the docks in the lake. Families had to evacuate their homes when the Chadakoin River spilled its banks in Jamestown.

The situation was worse farther east. Some 170 homes in Salamanca were destroyed or damaged when the Allegheny River flooded. In Olean, the toll was 3,400 homes. About two dozen people — 18 of them in the Corning area — died in the flooding along the Allegheny, Susquehanna, Genesee and Chemung rivers.

As William Parment, who spent several years in the county Planning and then Highway departments in the 1970s before moving on to elective office, notes, the lake monitoring station is part of a plan developed after that terrible storm to control or prevent flooding. It had nothing to do with sewer districts.

But now, because the sewer district has a stake in assuring a certain flow of water down the Chadakoin River in order to meet environmental requirements to operate the sewage treatment plant at Celoron, those who live within the district and pay sewer user fees have to pick up the tab for the monitoring station.

As we said, it is not a lot of money.

But with the county moving into budget-making time and facing an estimated $18 million deficit next year, the principle involved is big.

Taking money from a different pocket to pay for the same thing is not a cost savings.

Government saves money by cutting spending.

There is no other way.



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