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May 2014 Column - Funds available to complete much-needed road work


OFFICE HIGHLIGHTS

This month I wanted to talk about a new law I sponsored that will offer additional protections to our seniors residing in nursing homes and will improve access to information that is vital to families that are choosing a nursing home. Ruthie’s Law aims to respond to recent incidents of neglect occurring at nursing homes throughout our community by becoming more proactive and providing more transparency regarding incidents and their causes.  


Erie County Legislator Ted Morton reminds residents that the county hosts two Household Hazardous Waste Drop-off Days every spring.


Erie County Legislator Ted Morton announces that Erie County is seeking local businesses to participate in the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), coordinated through the Department of Social Services. Through this partnership, businesses provide work assignments and guidance to youths, who are paid through the agency that runs SYEP. 

Legislator Ted Morton today announced that the Legislature has declared April 2017 as Donate Life Month in Erie County.

I wanted to report this month regarding the ongoing contract dispute between the County and AFSCME Local 1095, which represents many of the blue collar workers throughout our county. These workers often work pay check to pay check and in some cases hold second jobs to make ends meet.


At the May 8 session I was proud to sponsor a resolution that called for the transfer of $5 million from the undesignated fund balance to this year’s budget to allow for additional road work. Knowing how dire the condition of our roadways is and the fact that the fund balance is currently at $89 million, I supported spending the small percentage of funding to ensure we were repairing as many roadways as possible.

 

Unfortunately, my colleagues from the Democratic Caucus did not recognize the seriousness of this issue and the item fell short of the required eight votes. The resolution was sent to committee to be considered at the May 22 session. I am extremely frustrated that this vote was put off, but what is more frustrating is the County Executive’s response that he won’t spend the money even if we allocate it. His office responded that Legislators are allocating money without a plan. How can our County Executive say he doesn’t have a plan to repair our crumbling infrastructure? That is irresponsible. We know the plan, every year a thorough review of our roads is done from top to bottom, he knows this, he apparently is just choosing to ignore it.

 

We have a diligent Department of Public Works and the commissioner and employees have spoken at committee, saying that they spent months working on the plan to be ready for the spring. That includes grading each of the county’s 1,200 lane miles. They are aware of the condition of each and every roadway we own.  Based on that analysis, the 2014 Road Project List, which totals $24 million, was created and approved. However, the total of projects needing attention wasn’t encompassed in the list. There are still more projects, however the County Executive didn’t budget money for them. Now, we have identified a funding source to pay for those additional projects that are already identified as necessary.

 

I don’t understand why the County Executive and my Democratic colleagues in the Legislature aren’t onboard with getting this money designated immediately and projects put on the construction calendar. We are losing time. Last month the County Executive said he didn’t think we could get the work done before the end of the season. Well, if he and his Democratic colleagues continue to delay, he will prove himself right and you, the taxpayers, will be left to suffer, driving on horrible roadways.

 

The fact is, we know there is much work to do be done and we have the funds available to take care of these serious issues.

 

County roads and bridges are our assets, and we are responsible for maintaining them. We can’t ignore issues, even if the solution may not be easy or convenient. That same approach has to be taken with the former Erie County Home that is sitting vacant in my district on Walden Avenue in Alden. It’s not only an eyesore, but it is unsafe.

 

I understand that removing the structure will not be easy or without a significant financial investment, but we still own it and must take action to deal with the issue. I am advocating for a fiscally responsible plan to take down this burden once and for all. We can’t drag our feet on this issue any longer and put the cost on taxpayers.