Municipalities not making grade

Big headlines this week center on the federal government shutdown and the lack of accountability by our bickering Congressional leaders for allowing it to happen.

These events in Washington, however, should not make our local governmental entities look as though they are responsible. Some, in fact, do need to be shut down.

Many have been reckless by relying on state and county assistance as well as their tax base to bail them out annually to continue a 200-year-old antique system of inefficient government that has a track record of raising taxes and fees to maintain an identity and a sustainability.

Last Saturday, a group of consultants visited Dunkirk to offer suggestions on how to better market the city. Regionalism initiatives inevitably were part of that discussion. Those seven consultants were from “Partners for a Livable Western New York.”

Unfortunately for Chautauqua County and the rest of the region, our potential partners – especially with bordering municipalities – are almost always looked upon as a rivals. Too often for municipalities, neighborly ways are not welcome unless there is a time of need or an emergency, such as a major fire, natural disaster or water emergency.

How does your municipality compare to others in this often selfish region? Here is a short report card for each:

Arkwright – Tiny entity still waiting for a magical wind-power developer while attempting to move ahead with plans for a town hall. Grade: C-

Brocton – Trustees deserve praise for taking part in north county water district, but they have also approved the highest average salaries for its employees when compared to all villages in Western New York. Grade: C+.

Cassadaga – As a village of around 625, it is still trying to go at it alone on a water system rather than being part of district. Grade: C-.

Dunkirk (city) – Making progress with town on policing and regional water. Still a development disappointment. Grade: C+.

Dunkirk (town) – Elected officials think highly of their operation and gave employees paid lunch breaks and want improvements to their town hall. Find a building – there are lots of empty ones in the area – to rent instead. Grade: C-.

Forestville – Some residents unfairly target current administration for woes, incompetence of the past. Village of less than 700 now has committee to discuss dissolution, which is controversial. Grade: Incomplete.

Fredonia – Committed to go on its own on far too many initiatives though it cannot get a dead-end street repaired. Board often comes across as stubborn and uncooperative. Grade: F.

Gowanda – Small village has come back after devastating flood. Now has to move forward without a hospital that was lost in disaster. Grade: C+.

Hanover – Too many questions and a lack of results. We also get the sense it is not working with the village of Forestville in terms of welcoming dissolution as an alternative. Grade: D.

Perrysburg – Residents and leaders of this town got it right when they dissolved a village of about 400 residents. It ended an unneeded layer of government. Are you taking notice, Forestville? Grade: A.

Persia – Dealing with a dog law (?) and a water district for 14 residents. Can’t wait to see price tag on these items. Grade: C.

Pomfret – Unfortunately, town tied to big-spending Fredonia has already approved exceeding tax cap. This board, however, seems more willing to seek regional solutions than the past. Grade: B-.

Portland – Town’s apparent lack of business-friendly attitude with equalization rate and code enforcement officer fighting proposed cabin plan lowers grade here as supervisor has been a regionalism booster. Grade: C+.

Ripley – Loves throwing taxpayer dollars at high attorney fees – often close to six figures annually. How can a town with a population of 2,400 residents justify that? Grade: D-.

  • Sheridan – Town should have never purchased the St. John Bosco Church building. Grade: C.

Silver Creek – Village has downsized by eliminating a costly police department. Board members took heat, but it was a courageous decision. Grade: B.

Stockton – Town is low key, already shares number of services with village but is doing nothing spectacular. Grade: C.

Westfield (town) – Was in constant battle with former village mayor. Raised taxes in last budget. Grade: C.

Westfield (village) – Still thinks its 3,400 residents need a separate police force. Must work closer with town to share and consolidate in future but get credit for rec department efforts with Brocton. Grade: C-.

Overall, the rating for the region’s municipalities speaks for itself: below average.

John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to or call 366-3000, ext. 401.