LITTLE VALLEY — Cattaraugus County lawmakers agreed to a new funding source of economic development and community projects on Wednesday.
With no new economic development funding in two years from the county’s share of Seneca Allegany Casino revenue sharing, the legislature will utilize the proceeds of timber sales for economic and community development projects.
Any timber sales after Jan. 1, 2019 will be transferred to a new reserve for economic and community development. Any casino funds used for economic development left in tier 1 and 2 accounts would also go into the new reserve.
In 2018, county legislators created a reserve account for reforestation. The county was selling ash trees that were in the crosshairs of the destructive emerald ash borer. The funds were to be set aside for reforestation efforts.
Public Works Committee Chairman Vergilio “Dick” Giardini, D-Allegany, who sponsored the resolution, said the aim is to make the 2,500 acres of county forests more accessible to the public.
Giardini said he had expressed concern about what to do when the reforestation fund runs dry. About $230,000 would remain in the reforestation fund. County Administrator Jack Searles said legislators could vote to add funds to the reserve in the future.
Giardini said he wants to build small parking lots and gates and signs on the county forest properties to they could be used by the public. The properties are used mostly by hunters, he said. They could also be used for hiking and camping.
Legislator Joseph Snyder, R-Ischua, who first proposed cutting the ash trees in county forests more than two years ago, said there was “too much money tied up in the account” for reforestation. A minimal investment will make the forests more accessible to the public.
By altering the program, the county can free up funding for economic development and community projects, Snyder explained.
Almost $1 million is expected to be raised from the timber sales. The county probably won’t schedule any future timber sales, for the time being, Snyder said. The price of timber has fallen.
Generations Forestry of Kane, Pa. has been marking trees for cutting. They will continue to manage the county forests under another resolution that was approved.
The first municipal application for county funding under the new program was also approved. East Otto asked for $20,000 to move its baseball field from Swamp Road to a field next to the Town Hall.
LEGISLATORS ALSO APPROVED a resolution to retain Bolanos Lowe PLLC of Pittsford to represent the county for labor and employment legal services.
Legislature Chairman James J. Snyder, R-Olean, said afterward that Karlee Bolanos, who was previously with Harris Beach, represented the county in an investigation involving sexual harassment allegations against former County Attorney Eric Firkel and misconduct allegations against former Election Commissioner Michael Brisky. Both resigned and are running for County Legislature. Both have denied any wrongdoing.
Bolanos briefed county lawmakers on what turned out to be a five-week investigation and turned the results of the investigation over to the state Attorney General’s Office.
Legislators also re-appointed Real Property Tax Services Director Daniel Martonis to a four-year term.
(Contact reporter Rick Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)