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


OFFICE HIGHLIGHTS

As we have just celebrated Labor Day and all our students are now back to school, I wanted to discuss a recent legislative issue that you may have read about in the newspaper.

Legislator Ted Morton recently visited Como Lake Park to observe the rapid deterioration of the lake.

Erie County Legislator Ted Morton (R-Cheektowaga) began his yearly summer listening tour this week that will have him visiting with residents in Lancaster, Cheektowaga, Depew and Alden.

A few weeks ago, the Legislature approved changes to the Erie County Charter that were recommended by an all-volunteer citizens committee. With County Executive approval, the measure would have gone to the ballot for the public to have their say and vote on in November. Unfortunately the County Executive chose to veto the recommended changes. As a result, the Legislature anticipates voting on an amended version later this month, including some changes suggested by the County Executive. While I’m disappointed that the original package was vetoed, I’m optimistic that a revised version will be passed and that the public will have the opportunity to vote on it this November.

Legislator Ted Morton (R-Cheektowaga) announced that the Legislature has authorized the start of the construction phase on Losson Road between Borden and Transit roads in Lancaster.

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.