Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas and Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sunquist believe Chautauqua County Executive PJ Wendel and the County Legislature should get more public comment before voting on the plan on how to spend the federal government’s $ 24.6 million.
A vote on the county’s spending plan is scheduled for Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the two mayors released a joint statement on how the county plans to use the federal government’s American Rescue Plan Act funds. In it, they note that Jamestown and Dunkirk have involved their local community foundations to help them get feedback on the funds they receive.
Jamestown receives $ 29.8 million from the American Rescue Plan while Dunkirk receives $ 11.6 million. County officials note that the two funding levels represent a significantly higher percentage of their annual budget, compared to Chautauqua County.
The comments from Rosas and Sunquist, who are Democrats, echo Norman P. Green, who is running on the Democratic line against Wendel, who is a Republican. The county legislature is also under Republican control.
During legislative hearings last week, Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown and chairman of the Audit and Oversight Committee, defended the county’s intended use of the funds, saying he was “A very organized process” with Democratic and Republican lawmakers providing input, as well as various county department heads.
Wendel said in one of the meetings that he had offered to work with cities on broadband spending but “they weren’t interested.”
Chautauqua County officials held no public hearing before announcing their spending plan on September 8. They took public comment during last week’s legislative committee hearings, which are open to the public. Green was the only member of the public speaking.
Chautauqua County has proposed 43 different projects with its $ 24.6 million on public health, infrastructure, economic / workforce development, drinking water, public safety and a few other miscellaneous projects. . To date, the county has received half of the funds and is required to create a spending plan in order to receive the remaining $ 12.3 million. The federal government does not allow the money to be used to reduce taxes or pay down existing debt.
The full joint declaration of the two mayors is as follows:
âAs CEOs of local government offices, we fully understand the challenges that all levels of government have faced over the past year and a half in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to be proud to work with the Wendel County Executive during this time, demonstrating that all of Chautauqua County can come together to improve the health, well-being and safety of all of our residents. We also recognize the tremendous help that ARPA’s local stimulus funds will provide to local government revival efforts as well as the opportunity to improve the quality and efficiency of our municipal services in an impactful and sustainable manner.
âWhen the county executive presented its plan for the use of ARPA funds to the Chautauqua County Legislature last week, we were disappointed to see that no projects in either of the two largest centers county population has not been proposed. While we thought there were worthwhile projects where county and city investments could be combined for greater impact, the county ultimately took a different approach. Jamestown and Dunkirk have received funds, which we are happy to invest in our communities. However, all of the county’s municipalities have received local stimulus funds through ARPA. Although we have participated in several meetings with the county to find potential common areas for coordinated investment and have come away hopeful, we were not invited to submit a formal proposal to request the use of these. funds. We can only assume that other municipalities may have been invited to officially apply for projects, but neither the City of Jamestown nor the City of Dunkirk have been informed of such a process.
âMost importantly, a clear and transparent public education plan from the county executive office on the use of ARPA funds as well as a feedback process from the public, businesses, non-profit organizations. profit and municipalities were lacking and constitute a breach of the duty conferred on our elected officials by all those who have taken up residence in the county of Chautauqua. We strongly believe that the public should be given the opportunity to participate in the planning process regarding the proposed spending and use of these unprecedented funds and we have shown our commitment to our own public process. As city leaders, we are stewards of our city’s resources, and we have a moral and ethical responsibility to seek and consider input and feedback from our residents, businesses, nonprofits and local stakeholders. regarding how our plans should direct spending allocations to projects and programs that will have the greatest impact and meet the most critical needs of our communities.
âThe City of Jamestown has launched a public comment tour and hosted several business roundtables over the past 2 months to present the city’s proposed ARPA plan to local residents, nonprofits, businesses and stakeholders. The Chautauqua Area Community Foundation has become an independent organization to help us collect and distill the feedback received, and will provide Jamestown City Council with a report and recommendations. The City of Dunkirk has partnered with the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation, engaged its residents and business owners with a detailed survey to help the City formulate a future investment plan, as well as hold several public meetings to receive feedback. Jamestown and Dunkirk have established a roadmap for local municipalities to engage with their communities in a positive way, not only by presenting our draft plans to the public, but by providing them with opportunities to share their feedback to strengthen our plans in order to they are holistic and benefit everyone in the community.
âWe call on the County Executive and County Legislature to follow our lead and implement a transparent public feedback process for the intended use of ARPA funds, as Jamestown and Dunkirk have effectively demonstrated. It is a unique time to invest in our communities. For this reason, now is not the time to shirk responsibility. “