Imagine being able to pay for an addition to your house in cash, without years of interest skyrocketing the cost of the project. It would leave a lot more money in your bank account for other expenses, or to save for a rainy day. Erie County is applying that prudent financial practice by using 2010 surplus funds to pay for several much-needed projects.
During the ninth Legislative session of 2011, held May 12, I voted in favor of spending $26 million of surplus funds to improve roads, invest in Erie Community College’s North Campus, and build new housing for seniors, among other projects.
By unanimous vote, the Legislature committed $7.5 million to support the construction of a state-of-the-art academic building on the ECC North Campus. The $30 million project is dependent on funds raised privately by ECC, as well as matching grants from the state. I have contacted state leaders asking for their support of this project and to bring much needed development to ECC North. Not since its foundation in 1960 has there been major renovation or construction at the campus. We can’t ignore the fact that development is long overdue. I believe that by investing in ECC North, and improving the caliber of services, that we will increase enrollment year after year.
Among the other capital projects is $11.5 million for the construction of the new Erie County Medical Campus Corporation Nursing Home. The funding will be used to relocate the county home, currently located in Alden, to the ECMC campus where patients receive the majority of their treatment. The County home provides care and residence for people, mostly seniors, who are societies most vulnerable and may not have other options. The old facility is nearly 60 years old, and hasn’t been renovated since 1974.
The Legislative spending package also includes $800,000 for the CHIPs Highway Program, which pays for much needed improvements and upgrades to roads and bridges across Erie County. This is an incredibly smart investment; our funds trigger a massive state and federal match. The county’s share is only 5 percent and the balance is paid for by federal (85 percent) and state (10 percent) funds. Specifically, these funds assist in improving culverts, and oil and chipping roads to protect the taxpayers’ investments into them.
The Legislature also voted to invest in our community assets. The Darwin Martin House will receive funding through a matching program to help complete its capital project. If the Darwin Martin Board is able to raise its share, the county will dedicate matching funds. As co-chairman of the Niagara Erie Regional Coalition, I am especially interested in this project. NERC has been an active partner in preparing for the upcoming 2011 National Preservation Conference being held in Buffalo in October. This conference will attract visitors from around the world who will tour our most notable architecture structures. The Martin House is considered premier destination for those planning to attend that conference.
In addition, the Legislature has also invested $300,000 for cultural organizations to use for capital improvement projects. By designating these funds we create an opportunity for culturals and the county to demonstrate their commitment by each investing funds. I am pleased that the Legislature prioritized funding to the cultural organizations; this investment will yield positive returns to the taxpayers today and in the future.
In honor of National Police Week, I presented proclamations to the departments in my district, thanking them for their service. These brave individuals deserve recognition and it was a privilege to honor them.
(Printed May 25, 2011 in The Amherst Bee Newspaper)