LITTLE VALLEY — Cattaraugus County lawmakers Wednesday unanimously opposed the decision by Siemens Energy to lay off 530 Olean manufacturing employees.
Sponsored by Olean’s three Republican county legislators — Frank Higgins, Kelly Andreano and Rick Smith — the resolution recognized “the hundreds of employees at Siemens Energy affected by the massive layoffs and transfers to other facilities.”
Andreano, who read the resolution, said, “The Cattaraugus County Legislature strongly disagrees and opposes the decision to lay off or transfer approximately 530 employees.”
She added: “The significant downsizing of the Siemens Energy plant in Olean is a major blow to the hundreds of hard-working families and the local community.
‘“There is uncertainty for the hundreds of families and the surrounding community with the sudden announcement,” Andreano said. “The employees should be recognized for their dedication and support to the community.”
Legislators also heard a presentation from members of the Cattaraugus County Farm Bureau as they “put faces to the farmers” in the county who supply food from milk to meat to vegetables and other agricultural products.
Katie Hill of the Farm Bureau board of directors, said she and her husband, Darin Hill, operate Hills Valley Farm in Cattaraugus. Their biggest challenge, she said, is lack of broadband which would enable the farm to use more technology. They have a dairy farm with 150 brown Swiss and farm 160 acres.
The problems from a lack of internet was echoed by Bob Wright of Wrights Farms in Farmersville, who operates a small dairy farm with his brother and runs a maple syrup operation. He also cited poor road conditions as something his customers complain about.
Tim Steffenhagen, who operates a bison and elk ranch on Route 242 in Machias, said his farm is one of the top 10 tourism attractions in the county.
In Mansfield, Mike Telaak said Telaak Farms uses robots to milk its 360 cows. With three owners and seven employees, they farm 1,000 acres of crops and shop 30,000 pounds of milk a day.
Farm Bureau President Bruce Rossette of BearKat Alpacas on Route 98 in Humphrey told the legislators the county’s 956 farms produced $93.4 million in products in 2017, the last year for which information is available. They farm 166,240 acres, with an average of 174 acres.
Besides the low margins in dairy farming nearly half of the farm owners are 65 or older. The county’s farms are 97% family owned, he said.
“We appreciate that all businesses have gone through a lot this past year,” Rosette said. “Farmers have had to deal with a whole lot in the last 40 years. What happens when we don’t have farmers anymore.”
Legislators approved a resolution asking the independent Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency not to grant tax breaks for solar or wind projects greater than 5 megawatts.
It was introduced by Joseph Snyder, R-Ischua, one of the legislature’s IDA representatives. It would impact the proposed $455 million Alle-Catt Wind Farm that includes two Cattaraugus County towns, Farmersville and Freedom, where the project is very controversial.
Legislators also agreed to set public hearings for two proposed local laws.
One calls for amendments to the County’s Animal Abuser Registry Law. Persons convicted of animal abuse would have to register with the Sheriff’s Office and pay a $125 fee.
The second local law would grant raises to county department heads. The 2% raises are reflected in the bi-weekly salaries:
County administrator — $4,467.
County attorney — $4,758.
Aging director — $2,905.
Community Services director — $3,432.
Public Health director — $4,304.
Social Services commissioner — $3,934.
Human Resources director — $3,301.
Information Services director — $3,461.
Economic Development director — $3,439.
Real Property Tax director — $3,174.
Emergency Preparedness director — $ 2,509.
Public Works commissioner — $3,508.
Public defender — $3,936.
Election commissioners — $2,484
County historian — $617.
Museum Curator — $617.
Probation director — $3,375.
Veterans Services director — $2,373.
Youth Bureau director — $2,711.
County clerk — $3,207.
County coroners — $464.
Sheriff — $4,296.