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May 2011 Column - We Must Continue to Invest in Our Future


OFFICE HIGHLIGHTS

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oneilj - Posted on 18 May 2011

A community must be willing to invest in itself in order to prosper.  This was certainly the case in 1817 when construction began on “Clinton’s Ditch.”  The completion of the Erie Canal helped turn Buffalo into one of the largest and wealthiest cities in America.  Judicious investments today can similarly help us recover from the decline of the last half century.  Several such opportunities await action by the Erie County Legislature.

 

The County Executive recently asked the Legislature to utilize 2010 surplus funds for a number of projects.  Among these are a couple that are vital to the future of our county.  The first involves money to cover the county’s $7.5 million share of a new academic building at Erie Community College’s North Campus.  I previously wrote of the importance of this project, especially to taxpayers in Grand Island and the Tonawandas.  Lack of classroom space has curtailed the expansion of programs at the campus and forced too many of our young people to look to Niagara County Community College to meet their educational needs.  This results in hundreds of thousands of dollars in “chargebacks” from NCCC to Erie County which the county then tacks on to the property taxes of the individual students’ towns.  The new building should allow ECC to keep more of our students in the county and reduce chargebacks from NCCC.  Erie County’s $7.5 million would only be spent if the state agrees to fund its $15 million share of the project and the college can raise an additional $7.5 million on its own.

 

The county executive has also recommended setting aside $500,000 of surplus funds for continuing the restoration of the Darwin Martin House.  This money would only be released if the restoration corporation can raise an additional $1 million in private funds.  Completing the restoration of this Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece is critical, especially since the National Trust for Historic Preservation is holding its conference in Buffalo this October.  This is a golden opportunity to show off our architectural gems and further our reputation as a wonderful destination for tourists.

 

While on the topic of investment, the development of the former Spaulding Fibre site is continuing.  Because the environmental review process is not complete we were not able to include funding for the access road in the bond resolution we recently passed.  I have received the assurance of the county’s budget director, however, that the $1.1 million we secured for the road in the capital budget is still there.  Once the environmental review is completed we can pass another bond resolution to keep the momentum going on the business park.  Like the ECC and Darwin Martin projects, the development of this former brownfield will be an important investment in our community’s future.

 

To speak with me about these issues, or any concerns you may have, please contact my Legislative Office at (716) 873-3438 or email kevin.hardwick@erie.gov.