Gowanda mayor will donate this year's $8,000 salary to non-profits

Gowanda Mayor David Smith, shown with his wife, Jill, will donate his 2021 salary to local non-profit organizations.

GOWANDA — Mayor David Smith said during his recent state of the village address that he will donate his $8,000 salary to local non-profit organizations.

Among the recipients will be the Gowanda Hollywood Theatre, the Gowanda Free Library, the Gowanda Fire Department and the Gowanda Ambulance Department.

“I believe I am a public servant,” Smith said during his address, which also included a presentation of the next budget. “That means to give what you can, when you can.”

He said every nonprofit lost the ability to conduct their usual fundraising efforts because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Addressing the state of the village, Smith cited steady improvement in Gowanda’s fiscal stress designation.

In 2015, the village’s designation was 60.8, which is considered high, but in 2018 that number was 3.3, and in 2020, Smith said, the number was just 1.67, essentially a zero designation.

Meanwhile, Smith said one of the most important projects that the village has worked on is the Thatcher Brook Flood Mitigation Project, which is now entering the design phase.

Flooding from Thatcher Brook is a longstanding threat to residents and businesses in the village, but an agreement involving the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Environmental Conservation calls for a $10 million diversion structure to remove that threat forever.

“I’m very happy about it,” Smith said earlier this year. “My number one initiative since taking office in 2017 has been to eliminate the threat of flooding from Thatcher Brook.”

The most recent serious flooding in 2009 caused $90 million in damage and destruction. It also forced the Tri-County Hospital to close. That $90 million would be closer to $120 million in 2020 dollars, Smith said.

The diversion ditch — both above ground and a large underground culvert — would be automatically opened by rising water and the speed of the flow. It would divert water from Thatcher Brook at the steel deck bridge on Hill Street in a channel following the railroad tracks, discharging directly into Cattaraugus Creek.

“This project will eliminate the flood plain and eliminate the need for residents to purchase flood insurance every year,” Smith said in January. It will also increase property values by 23% to 25%.

“It will divert the floodwaters before it flows through a major portion of the village,” Smith said. “Even in a 200-year rain event, there would be no catastrophic flooding like we’ve had in the past.”

Smith said the Army Corps of Engineers will pay 65% of the $10 million price tag, with the Department of Environmental Conservation and the village splitting the remaining 35%.

The village has a $1 million state grant obtained several years ago by former State Sen. Catharine M. Young and a healthy budget surplus to pay its share of the project.

The $10 million Thatcher Brook Flood Mitigation is part of a total $18.5 million of project support that Gowanda will be receiving. The Waterfront Development will receive $2.5 million of that number, which helped improve Gateway Park and the Hollywood Theater.

Regarding the 2021-22 budget, Smith said that the village will reduce its tax levy slightly for the year, by 0.03%. The increase will result in a 1.38% tax increase in Erie County. In Cattaraugus County, due to equalization rates, there will be a 0.08% tax decrease.

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