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Response to Criticism of County Projects for American Rescue Plan Funding

Submitted by gallagha on Thu, 09/23/2021 - 12:13

 

$24.6 Million to be Allocated to 43 Projects

 

MAYVILLE, N.Y.: – Recently there have been several critiques of how Chautauqua County plans to utilize the funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and the process by which these projects were chosen.

 

“These critiques inaccurately claim that Chautauqua County ignored the municipalities of Jamestown and Dunkirk during the ARPA funding discussions, and in the proposed projects,” said PJ Wendel, Chautauqua County Executive.

 

The County Executive’s Office organized meetings solely dedicated to meet with City of Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist and City of Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas to discuss ARPA project collaboration. The first meeting was on March 23 to discuss ARPA funding to improve broadband access, and the second was on June 2 to discuss the American Rescue Plan.

 

“Mayor Sundquist expressed to meeting participants not to carve out any money for the City of Jamestown in the County’s ARPA projects as the City had its own plan,” said Wendel. “In addition, Mayor Rosas did not attend the first meeting, and sent a liaison from his office to the second. Furthermore, the County Executive’s Office has monthly conference call meetings with all of the county’s town supervisors and mayors. Both Sundquist and Rosas are invited to these monthly meetings and could have presented any ARPA projects, but neither mayor actively participated in these calls.” 

 

In March, Chautauqua County Government discussed and formed a bipartisan ARPA working group consisting of Wendel; Legislature Chairman Pierre Chagnon; Legislators Chuck Nazzaro, Jay Gould, and Mark Odell; and several department heads. This working group met every two weeks since April 2021 to develop a plan of projects to be funded with ARPA monies.

 

“The Cities of Dunkirk and Jamestown were not ignored during this process,” said Wendel. “Many of the proposed projects will benefit the county as a whole including the two cities. The Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) programs Healthy Housing and Lead Based Paint Remediation will help create healthier living environments for the residents of both cities. In addition, DHHS’ Strong Starts program and the purchase of Deterra pouches will help address the opioid epidemic in Jamestown and Dunkirk.”

 

In selecting projects, the County Executive and ARPA working group placed a special emphasis on public health, infrastructure, economic/workforce development, clean water, and public safety. Projects selected within these general categories were prioritized based on their County-wide impact, the extent to which they would have a direct and lasting impact, the extent to which they address an identified need, and the extent to which they are sustainable without incurring future costs to the County. 

 

The ARPA working group presented these projects to a special session of the legislature, which was held on September 8 in the Legislative Chambers, wherein 41 projects were carefully discussed by department heads and other key stakeholders. The projects were also reviewed by each of the legislative committees the week of September 13. Based on input from discussions at the committee meetings, the Audit & Control Committee proposed amendments to the original ARPA Plan, which added 2 new projects to the list of 41 for a new total of 43 projects.

 

“Included in the revised list of proposed projects is $863,000 allocated to the North County Industrial Water District to replace a 400,000 gallon water storage tank,” said Wendel. “This tank services businesses in the north county including Nestlé Purina PetCare, one of the largest employers in the Dunkirk area.”

 

“While I believe these critiques to be inaccurate, this does not hinder Chautauqua County’s ability to work in a collaborative fashion with the cities of Jamestown and Dunkirk,” said Wendel. “My office door has and always will be open to the two mayors to discuss any projects they feel benefit their communities so we can better serve the residents of Chautauqua County.”

 

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