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


OFFICE HIGHLIGHTS

Erie County Legislator Ted Morton joined Congressman Chris Collins and Congressman Peter King at a press conference urging an increase in first responder grant funding. The two Congressmen discussed a letter they signed and sent to the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee requesting additional funding for the Assistance to Firefighters (FIRE) Grant Program and for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant Program.


Erie County Legislator Ted Morton recently delivered the pet supplies collected during his Pet Supply Drive to Executive Director Gary Willoughby at the SPCA – Serving Erie County.


As snow continues to surprise us by falling here in early April, it’s at least nice to know that spring is soon to arrive in full bloom, with it a couple of urgent issues have come before the Legislature.

Erie County Legislator Ted Morton announces that Erie County will host a Free Drive-Thru Disposal event to collect medications and needles. All prescription and over-the-counter medications, as well as needles will be accepted, no questions asked.

Erie County Legislator Ted Morton has called on Executive Mark Poloncarz to provide answers on the status of the New Stadium Working Group. In a letter dated March 24, 2016, Legislator Morton raises questions after the announcement that the Group has been suspended.

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.