U.S. Rep. Tom Reed on Tuesday laid blame for the death of a Salamanca woman on a lack of fire department personnel brought about by the state’s failure to pay the city’s share of Seneca casino revenue sharing funds.
That amounts to about $6 million a year for the city of Salamanca, which has a limited ability to raise property taxes because of the exemption of Seneca-owned property on the Allegany Territory.
Reed told the Olean Times Herald that “because of staffing issues” only one firefighter was available when a call came last week in involving an apparent cardiac arrest of a 46-year-old city resident.
The congressman did not identify the woman, who he said “died on the way to the hospital due to the delay” in response by emergency medical technicians on the fire department.
Reed said he had met with Salamanca Mayor Michael “Smitty” Smith and fire officials over the issue of the state’s failure to follow through what were thought to be promises by the governor’s representatives that the city would get its casino revenue sharing funds just like Niagara Falls.
The Common Council had recently tabled the hiring of two new firefighters over funding, Reed noted, indicating the department was short-staffed.
“Because the EMTs were out on another call, only one firefighter was available” when the cardiac arrest call came in, Reed said.
The Corning Republican said the fire department positions were unfilled because of the payment due to the local community under the Seneca/New York State gaming compact.
The city is down to its last $800,000 in reserves, Reed said. With payroll of $70,000 to $80,000 a week, it won’t last long.
The Senecas have withheld the 20 percent share of slot machine revenue they shared with New York State since early 2017. The Senecas maintained the pact did not mention continued Seneca payments past year 14 of the 21-year pact.
An arbitration panel found in favor of the state and ordered the Senecas to pay $225 million to New York state and resume the revenue sharing payments.
In recent weeks, Reed has been poking Gov. Andrew Cuomo over the need for the state to repair roads on Seneca territories including Salamanca-area roads and the New York State Thruway. Last week, Reed called on the federal government to investigate the Thruway matter.
A spokesman for the governor, senior adviser Rich Azzopardi, said last week Reed “should stop with the cheap stunts” regarding the Thruway issue. The Times Herald could not reach a Cuomo administration spokesperson Tuesday for comment on the Salamanca city funds issue.
Reed said, “The money that is due Salamanca has clearly been appropriated in the state budget. The state has a responsibility to pay even if it doesn’t get the Seneca payment. The governor reneged on the $6 million payment.”
Reed said, “The governor made the decision to pay a host payment to Niagara Falls and not Salamanca. That is extremely appalling.”
Reed suggested the governor’s actions were a reaction to Niagara Falls voting in support of his re-election bid and Cattaraugus County and Salamanca casting more votes for his opponent.
The political question, Reed said, is why Cuomo close not pay Salamanca while at the same time making a payment to Niagara Falls.
Reed said, “That’s my problem with this governor. A lady died due to limits on staffing for the ambulance. This is not getting better. It is a public safety threat in Salamanca. The payments should be made. It doesn’t make sense to pick one and not the other.”
Despite Reed’s harsh words for Cuomo recently, he said as a friend of the Senecas, he stands ready to mediate not only the issues over local roads on Seneca territory including the Thruway, but the compact issues as well.
“Don’t mix the two together,” Reed advised the governor of the roads and the compact. Take care of all the communities. These are people we represent and care about.”
(Contact reporter Rick Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)