12/26/14: Debut of Health Mall, Growing Economy, Investments in Parks Included in 2014 Erie County Highlights

Modified: January 23, 2015 3:31pm

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In Holiday Message, County Executive Poloncarz Notes many Successes of 2014

ERIE COUNTY, NY— Today, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz noted numerous successes that occurred around Erie County in 2014, ranging from the further strengthening of the local economy, to the debut of the new Erie County Health Mall in May, to the December passage of a budget with a small tax cut as part of his holiday message to all Erie County residents.

“As 2014 draws to a close, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season and extend best wishes for a good year in 2015.  It is an honor and a privilege to serve as your County Executive, and my heartfelt thanks go out to the thousands of Erie County residents who give of themselves every day to make life better for those around them,” said Poloncarz. “We truly are the ‘County of Good Neighbors’ because of you, and I am blessed to live in such a great county. There was much to be thankful for in 2014, and we look forward to more growth as a community in 2015.”

Among the many highlights of the past year was the continued rejuvenation of the local economy, as the County’s unemployment rate fell to 5.6% in November after starting the year at 7.2%. Poloncarz stated, “Our community’s renaissance is best seen through the reduction in our unemployment rate as thousands more citizens are now employed compared to just earlier this year, and our county’s unemployment rate is now lower than the state and national averages of 5.9% and 5.8%, respectively.”

Poloncarz also highlighted a busy year all across Erie County government, noting the County’s response in January to the first blizzard to strike our area in nearly 20 years along with the  return of Winterfest to Chestnut Ridge Park, an annual event that brings families and friends to the park for free winter fun. Winterfest 2015 will take place on Sunday, January 25 at the park. Also last January, over 400 animals were vaccinated against rabies at a free clinic held at the North Buffalo Community center.

“Winterfest and rabies clinics are good examples of the People’s Mandates, providing the services that residents expect and that provide a better quality of life,” Poloncarz added. “In 2015 we will expand and enhance these types of services where possible.”

A frigid February saw Erie County and partners breaking ground at the Buffalo Zoo’s new Arctic Edge exhibit, while the County Executive delivered his State of the County address on February 26. In March, Poloncarz joined Winchester Elementary School students as they distributed “Boxes of Love” to West Seneca’s Lexington Green neighborhood, which was hard-hit by spring flooding. March also brought the hiring of Jocelyn Gordon as the Buffalo Niagara Land Bank’s first Executive Director.

April ushered in a busy spring with an observation of National Equal Pay Day on April 8 that included the County Executive’s call for businesses applying for tax incentives from the ECIDA to end income inequality between genders in their workplaces. An extensive package of proposed reforms to the statewide Child Protective Services (“CPS”) program was presented on April 15, while another of the County Executive’s “Initiatives for a Smart Economy” saw its debut with the introduction of the WNY Sustainable Business Roundtable on Earth Day, April 22.

May got off to a great start with the ribbon-cutting at the new Erie County Health Mall, located at 1500 Broadway in Buffalo. On the site of the former Matt Gajewski clinic, which was shuttered by a former administration, the mall setting provides state of the art primary, dental and mental health care to residents and greatly reduces the need for costly emergency-room visits for non-emergency situations. May was also a big month for free rabies clinics, as a herculean effort by staff at two clinics held that month resulted in over 1,600 animals getting vaccinated.

Poloncarz continued, “I want to thank our partners in these endeavors, who share our vision of providing the health care services that residents need and expect. Both at the Health Mall and with the popular rabies clinics, Erie County alone does not have the resources to provide these services. However, working with partners allows all parties to leverage their abilities and resources to the maximum to create better outcomes for all.”

As summer began in June, Erie County and partners cut the ribbon on the new Sherwood Greenway trail in Tonawanda which will greatly increase waterfront access for residents in that area. July spotlighted the $8 million in total spending the Poloncarz administration has committed to Erie County parks since 2012, which includes nearly $1.3 million at Chestnut Ridge alone and extensive work at other parks. July also brought good news as Fitch ratings affirmed Erie County’s credit rating as “A” and praised the administration’s “continued prudent financial practices”. In August, the administration completed its fifth successful contract negotiation, as the CSEA Local 815 ratified a new contract, while at Canalside guests came to visit Shark Girl and enjoy an unparalleled waterfront experience.  September stayed busy with work beginning on the Domestic Violence Tribute Garden at Isle View park, as well as Erie County’s recognition by AARP as an “age-friendly community”, and more good financial news as Wall Street ratings agency Standard & Poor’s rewarded Erie County’s “consistently strong budgetary performance” with a rare three-step rating upgrade that increased the County’s credit rating to “AA-“, the highest rating the County has had since 2003.

The final quarter of 2014 produced another increase in Erie County’s public health emergency preparedness score and a renewed commitment to fighting lead in our community in October. In November, County Executive Poloncarz signed his thirteenth Executive Order, requiring equal pay certification and compliance for all contractors with Erie County. November also brought the challenges of Winter Storm Knife, a seven-foot snowfall that spotlighted Erie County for an international audience. In December, the County Executive’s Proposed Budget was passed unanimously by the Erie County legislature with minor amendments, and included a small tax cut that Poloncarz had worked with legislators to produce. Wrapping up the year, Santa Land returned to Chestnut Ridge Park on December 13-14 to the delight of Christmas lovers young and old.