Borrello to head diverse district

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of a series of articles highlighting major issues facing area Chautauqua County legislative districts and the legislators who will preside over them.

As George Borrello enters his third term with the Chautauqua County Legislature, he has a new district to represent.

“You would think, having one town, that it would be a nice and easy district,” he said. “Really, it’s very diverse.”

The south end of Borrello’s district includes miles of grape vineyards and farmland. Sunset and Hanford bays sit at the north end, and where routes 5 and 20 join is what Borrello calls “the 5 and 20 business corridor.”

“It’s very tourism-focused at the north end of the town of Hanover,” Borrello said.

However, there have been recent economic challenges. Petri Baking Products in Silver Creek closed in July, causing the loss of 250 jobs.

In October, Lake Shore Hospital’s board of directors announced that the Irving hospital would close its doors in January, citing losses near $7 million by the end of the year.

Borrello believes that the nonprofit hospital can be saved through a private buyer.

“Keeping Lake Shore open is the number one priority for me – making sure it services the critical needs of not just our town, but a three-county area including Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Erie counties,” he said.

If Lake Shore accepts an offer made by a private company and continues its operations to provide essential services, it will be in the best interest of the community, he added.

“I’m hopeful that we’re going to have some good news, soon,” Borrello said.

Another priority of the incoming District 6 legislator is the dredging of Cattaraugus Creek, which empties into Sunset Bay and has not been dredged since the 1980s.

“It’s an issue of being able to launch and navigate boats successfully. It’s keeping our tourism afloat,” Borrello said, adding that shallow waters in Cattaraugus Creek exacerbate flooding in Sunset Bay, which is a major safety issue.

Congressman Tom Reed and Margaret Burcham, brigadier general of the Army Corps of Engineers, recently visited the site.

“We’re getting them to change the way they look at this,” Borrello said. “We want them to look at the critical impact on our county and specifically, safety.”

Among other issues, he said cutting expenses to county taxpayers is important.

He agrees with legislator John Runkle, R-Stockton, in establishing residency requirements to receive welfare benefits, which has been highly discussed within Human Services and Audit and Control committees in Mayville within the past few months.

“Even a small change there can result in a large amount of dollars,” Borrello said. “You can say I’m in favor of lowering taxes, but we have to look at what is creating those high taxes, which is the state’s unfunded mandates and high cost of welfare. No one should come to our county or our state with the sole intention of living off of taxpayers. Unfortunately, it happens every month.”

In terms of the Chautauqua County Home, Borrello said it should be purchased by a private buyer.

“I’ve done my due diligence in what’s best for taxpayers,” he said, referring to his efforts on the county legislature’s ad hoc committee in his last term, which analyzed the county-owned nursing home’s financial past and future sustainability. “As I’ve said before, this is about saving the County Home in the long run and expanding jobs and services there.”

In the next two years, Borrello would like to see the legislature work together along with the Industrial Development Agency to pursue more jobs in the tourism industry and create a more business-friendly environment.

“It’s all about working together and providing as much incentive as we can for people who want to operate a business here,” he said.