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March 2013 Column - Changes needed at state, federal levels concerning safety


OFFICE HIGHLIGHTS

Back in 2012, I worked with volunteer firefighters and the Firefighters Association of the State of New York, known as FASNY, to get Erie County included in the HELP (Higher Education Learning Plan) grant, which was paid for with federal dollars...

The Erie County Legislature has approved a resolution in support of an amendment to the federal health care bill that would require that New York State pay the total cost of Medicaid. This would relieve Erie County of approximately $200 million...

Members of the Erie County Legislature have requested that the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority (ECFSA) Board appear at the next Finance and Management Committee meeting to discuss the new plan that would allow the ECFSA to borrow on behalf...

My office recently participated in a conference to discuss New York State’s Foreclosure Relief Act and how it can remove “Zombie Properties” from your neighborhood. There isn’t a single community in Western New York that...

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo has a lot of big ideas. Some of these ideas would be incredible for our region, including the extension of light rail into Amherst. However, we first need to address how to pay for our current obligations before...

oneilj - Posted on 06 March 2013

Recently we were reminded that tragedy can strike without warning and affect any one of us.

On the fourth anniversary of the crash of Flight 3407, our minds went back to that awful night when an airplane carrying our friends and loved ones fell from the sky, striking a home in Clarence Center and killing 49 people on board as well as one of the homeowners.

Was this a tragic, unavoidable accident or was there another reason that flight didn’t make it safely to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport runway? After an investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board highlighted failures with airline training and piloting procedure as reasons for the crash.

After a diligent effort by the families of the victims, changes were included in the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010. Recently we learned that many of those policy changes have not been implemented. Lending my support to the necessity of these improvements, I sponsored a resolution calling on the FAA to implement the changes without further delay. The resolution (CLICK HERE TO READ THE RESOLUTION) received unanimous support at the Feb. 21 Erie County Legislature session and was forwarded to the FAA administrator.

The families are to be commended for taking on and winning a tough fight. We also commend the emergency responders who first had to deal with this tragedy. Just a few blocks from the crash scene is the Clarence Center Firehouse. Volunteers were first on the scene, taking action to protect neighboring houses and residents and handle this emergency as best they could. We expect our volunteer first responders to be there when we need them, whatever the call for help may be. That is why it is critical we are there for them — to provide the training and tools they need to best protect and help the community. That task has been more difficult due to the state’s failing to properly allocate each county’s share of $190 million collected annually through the statewide wireless 911 cellular surcharge. The purpose of this fee is to pay for E-911 technology upgrades in counties across New York.

In January, I sponsored a resolution (CLICK HERE TO READ THE RESOLUTION) that again brought attention to this issue that has been unresolved for several years. My resolution lent support to a bill in the State Senate calling for the local share to be raised from approximately 6 percent to 58 percent. The current, improper distribution is hampering public safety efforts in Erie County. Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer is one of the bill’s co-sponsors, and I thank him for his efforts to increase the amount of funds shared with local governments.

In Erie County we still have communities whose 911 systems have not been upgraded. Receiving the appropriate level of funding, Erie County could finalize a countywide upgrade to help all first responders more accurately and quickly identify the location of the victim as well as obtain information about the emergency.

While accidents and tragedies are unavoidable at times, it is critical that we as a community are best prepared to handle them should they occur.