Tourism a focus for Hemmer
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.
John Hemmer, R-Westfield, is about to take his seat with the Chautauqua County Legislature for the second time.
Although the downsized group of 19 legislators will have their hands full with issues regarding high taxes, economic development and the future of the Chautauqua County Home, Hemmer is more focused on human services and the tourism industry.
“Here in Westfield, we have Barcelona Harbor and a lot of lakefront property,” Hemmer said. “I’d like to see us try to enhance our use of Lake Erie.”
Federal funding was recently awarded for the dredging of Barcelona Harbor, which is scheduled to take place in the summer of 2014. Hemmer hopes it will aid in bringing more boat users to the area.
Additionally, the Lake Erie Wine Trail passes through District 19.
“We seem to have more and more wineries popping up and they’re all part of the wine trail,” Hemmer said. “The addition of more wineries boosts tourism, and I like tourism. It’s a good industry and it’s good to have people come and see beautiful Chautauqua County.”
Countywide, Hemmer said the legislature’s biggest priority is providing services.
One of those service providers, he added, is the Department of Public Facilities, for which the legislature recently authorized the issuance of $4 million in bonds in order to pay for the cost and construction of a new 24,000-square-foot facility in Falconer.
“That’s a big project,” Hemmer said. “I’d like to see it go through in a timely fashion, on budget. I’m hoping we can use our own forces to make the project go smoother.”
Maintenance of the county’s roads, bridges, parks, two airports and landfill are essential, he added.
“They all provide their own challenges,” Hemmer said, adding that the landfill is not currently taking in as much trash as it used to. “That will be one of our challenges- to try and turn that around and make sure it pays its own way.”
As for the County Home, Hemmer is in favor of removing it from county ownership. He would also like to see additional assisted living in the facility.
“In private hands, it will be a lot better equipped to be a sustainable enterprise. I’m pretty certain it can be run in a fashion where it’s making money and will be there in the future for people who need skilled nursing,” he said. “In the hands of the county, due to a lot of different reasons, I don’t think we’ll ever be able to make it a self-sustaining facility.”
In other matters, state requirements for residency in order to receive benefits has been a highly discussed topic in recent months within the Human Services Committee, of which Hemmer was a member in his first term as legislator.
“We (in New York) go beyond the federal standard,” Hemmer said. “In letting everyone know that there is a residency requirement, it helps to make people aware that we’re not just a giveaway state. Sometimes, I feel that’s the reputation we have.”
In terms of the county’s Welfare to Work program, he has been impressed with the work of the Health and Human Services Department and the program’s increase in participation percentages.
“It takes a lot of coordination,” Hemmer said. “We’ve made some great strides. It takes a lot of work, and there’s a long way to go.”
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