Regionalism brings reward

Before getting too carried away with the more than $1 million in funding awarded for area initiatives from the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council, there needs to be a little perspective.

Included in the funding is $1 million for the north county water district, which is on shaky ground at the moment. We already know the village of Fredonia is not on board with the project and the city of Dunkirk’s leaders have also started to dig in their heels as well.

Concerns over the project, obviously, center on municipalities losing control over water plants – cash cows they have run for years. Area municipalities are able to set up high rates – more than water costs to customers in the desert of Arizona – to keep a viable stream of funding readily available.

Another initiative approved by the council was $65,000 for the Local Waterfront Revitalization Project. While not the sum of the water district, it is still a significant amount of cash the village of Fredonia rejected to be a part of in August.

Trustee Susan Mackay was the lone dissenting voice at the time of the rejection. “I think the tourism opportunity by offering up projects like this to the state would benefit Fredonia. We have Canadaway Creek and we have other tributaries which would have allowed us to be a part of this grant,” she said in the summer. “The initial board was in favor of it and I’m sorry this came at a time when we aren’t able to budget it since that seems to be most of the concerns.”

Funding awards of more than $1 million for these two initiatives prove the governor and the councils are serious about rewarding regional projects. What we see, unfortunately, is many of these area governments involved still are not embracing the regional concept.

It is not their fault they are afraid. They have great reason to be.

New York state may soon be penalizing local governments that continue to increase taxes. Besides that, residents continue to flee high-taxing entities in upstate, such as Chautauqua County.

Even local leaders admit a regional approach will fix a lot of what’s wrong locally. The problem is getting a commitment from each board.

With more than $1 million on the table in grants from the state, you would think it would be an easier sell.

If these initiatives do not work out due to a lack of cooperation, the state will not forget. And funding for local projects will become even less likely to depend upon.