Janet Keefe hopes to see job growth

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the eleventh in a series of articles highlighting major issues facing each of the 19 Chautauqua County districts and the legislators who will preside over them.

Janet Keefe said her education in sociology and background in human services will help her in her first term with the Chautauqua County Legislature.

Representing District 4, this is her first elected position.

SUNY Fredonia sits in Keefe’s district, and as for issues in her district and countywide, she hopes to see job growth.

“I’m very encouraged by StartUp NY,” Keefe said. “I’m really hoping we’ll get some businesses here, not just at Fredonia, but at Jamestown Community College too. It could really help us.”

StartUp NY is an initiative implemented by Gov. Andrew Cuomo this year that allows businesses to operate tax free for 10 years in cooperation with community colleges and SUNY campuses.

As for other job-related issues in the northern part of Chautauqua County, Keefe said she was thrilled when she heard last week’s announcement of the repowering of Dunkirk’s NRG plant.

“It was a very scary thing that we were going to lose the NRG plant,” she said. “I know it’s a big challenge but I’m still hoping we can save the County Home.”

Keefe said the biggest issue countywide is the Chautauqua County Home’s current situation, which has been highly debated within the legislature.

She said she’s been conducting research on the nursing facility’s financial past, and said even if it’s sold to a private owner, money will be lost.

“Jobs will be lost, and we’ll have to pay for unemployment, pensions and benefits,” Keefe said. “There are a lot of ways to save the County Home.”

The facility employs 280 staff members and provides 216 patients with medical care. Currently, an empty home sits on the property along with a natural gas well.

“The home sitting on the property could be sold or rented,” Keefe said. “The County Home could pay the county for the use of the natural gas well and money would be coming back to the county from the County Home.”

In other matters, Keefe said the creation of a regional water system in the northern part of the county would be beneficial.

“I also believe that all the water in the system should come from Chautauqua County,” she added, referring to suggestions in the past which mentioned obtaining water from Erie County or Erie, Pa. “We have plenty of water in our county and it should come from here.”

Keefe will join 18 other legislators, downsized from 25, on Wednesday. She is also one of six total Democratic legislators.

“We are a small group, so I think we’ll get to know each other pretty well,” Keefe said of her political party.

Of the entire legislature, she believes its important to work together.

“We still need to be bipartisan, even though (the Republicans) have the supermajority,” Keefe said. “I still have a lot to learn, but I will work hard to learn everything I can while in office.”