Ready to lead
By KATIE ATKINS
OBSERVER Mayville Bureau
Vince Horrigan will undoubtedly have a busy schedule now that he has been sworn in as Chautauqua County Executive.
Since he was elected on Nov. 5, he’s been meeting with a transition team consisting of local leaders in manufacturing, tourism, agriculture and retail.
Together, they’ve been communicating with representatives of nonprofit foundations and local governments to identify short-term opportunities for growth.
“We’re getting down to our final recommendations and we’re making good progress,” Horrigan said. “The transition team really reached out across Chautauqua County and provided some great input on efficiency of government to our employability and economic development, which is so important to us.”
In the next four years, one of Horrigan’s top priorities will be working to consolidate Chautauqua Lake’s sewer districts.
He’s also been communicating with Bill Boria, county health department water resource specialist; Mark Geise, deputy director of the county Department of Planning and Economic Development; and Pierre Chagnon, R-Bemus Point, the new District 8 legislator whose district spans across areas on both sides of the lake.
Chautauqua Heights, North Chautauqua Lake Sewer District, Chautauqua Utility District and the South and Center Chautauqua Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant make up the lake’s wastewater system.
Properties not connected to the system have aging septic tanks and sewering the entire lake would help prevent phosphorus from entering the lake.
“We’re very concerned,” Horrigan said. “It’s a very important infrastructure piece, bringing all the sewer districts together. The sewer districts and I are working together on this and it will be a very important part of my administration.”
Horrigan said he was impressed with Chautauqua County’s agribusiness when he campaigned, and wants to focus on its future success.
“That’s really a critical part of our economy,” he said. “Some of it relates to legislation and working with state senators and assemblymen to make sure that the agriculture industry is not hampered by unnecessary regulations that can really cut into their success.”
Horrigan said he especially wants to call attention to grape harvesting and the Lake Erie Wine Trail.
“It’s really taken off in the northern part of the county,” he said. “We have to encourage growth. More growth equals more jobs and more jobs equal more taxpayers. That’s how we’ll maintain a good living.”
Horrigan fully supports the creation of a regional water district in the northern part of the county.
“The state says the project is necessary and that’s such a positive. I’m very encouraged by that,” he said. “We are rapidly getting up to speed with regional solutions.”
A feasibility study for creating a regional water program was completed in 2010 revealing no significant groundwater aquifers exist in the north county to provide large quantities of water required to meet municipal needs.
In many areas, there is not enough groundwater available to develop a private well for a home, and in areas where groundwater is available, much of it is shallow, of poor quality and susceptible to contamination.
Numerous updates were required to ensure the continuance and availability of safe drinking water for residents, such as replacing waterlines.
“Right after the first of the year, we’ll be working hard with all of the players to make sure everybody has their questions answered,” Horrigan said.
The village of Fredonia has not yet agreed to join other municipalities involved in the regional system, but was included in the legislature-approved creation of the Chautauqua County Water Agency, which will consist of three county legislators and nine elected officials representing municipalities to be included in Phase 1 of the proposed water supply program.
The incoming legislature will review the makeup of the agency’s membership as later phases of the project are developed. Also, it will be possible for the village of Fredonia to join the regional water district in the future if they choose to do so.
“I don’t want to speak for (Fredonia), but we do have them included in the process moving forward,” Horrigan said.
CHAUTAUQUA COUNTY HOME
“We (the Republican Party) see opportunity for private investment,” Horrigan said after winning on Election Day. “We’ve determined the best way to move forward. We’re all working hard.”
During his campaign, Horrigan made it clear that he supported the privatization of the Chautauqua County Home.
He also said that, as a government-operated skilled nursing home, the county was prevented by law from expanding levels of care to assisted living, which would help make it sustainable.
Its privatization would expand services and grow jobs through the addition of assisted living options as well as other health care specialized services while eliminating the need for taxpayer subsidies, Horrigan said.
“We are optimistic that toward the early part of the next legislative session, we will have a contract with the legislature to consider,” he said. “We have nothing to announce at this time, but will continue in our efforts to find a suitable purchaser.”
Last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a $150 million agreement between Dunkirk’s NRG Plant and National Grid to repower the facility with natural gas. The repowering will be complete by fall 2015 and will improve the reliability of the electric system and bring lower electric supply costs to consumers, Cuomo said, adding that the agreement assured the operation of the plant for 10 years.
“It’s absolutely a wonderful development,” Horrigan said after the announcement was made. “The uncertainty that had lingered for so long had all of us wondering what the possibilities could be, should the agreement not go through.”
Horrigan congratulated the efforts of Sen. Catharine Young, Assemblyman Andy Goodell and Congressman Tom Reed who worked with community members and garnered support for the plant’s repowering and had it not been a success, the failure of an agreement would have had a significant impact on the county’s tax base.
“This is a great celebration and great success for our community,” he said. “We can now move forward and concentrate on other areas and not have it lingering over our heads.”
Since he was elected, Horrigan has met with several people in the hospitality industry, including Andrew Nixon, executive director at the Chautauqua County Visitors’ Bureau.
“We’re really focusing on the customer service piece of the hospitality industry,” Horrigan said, further stressing the importance of the county’s business, especially in the summer.
“We want to make sure we have the right tools available for employers who can assist in creating an environment of customer service,” he said. “We want people who visit Chautauqua County to be impressed with their experiences. We want them to say, ‘What a great place to come and visit.'”
Horrigan said the Visitors’ Bureau is going to investigate areas which need improvement in order to ensure adequate service in hotels and restaurants.
As for the new, downsized Chautauqua County Legislature, three new faces and two former legislators are joining 14 incumbents in Mayville this month.
Thirteen Republicans and six Democrats now make up the downsized group of 19 rather than 25.
“I’m really looking forward, as county executive, to working with this new legislature,” he said. “There’s going to be unprecedented bipartisanship as we try to work through and solve the challenges before us. New people, new ideas and a fresh approach is always a good thing.”
Democratic legislators include Fred Larson of Jamestown, District 12; Janet Keefe of Fredonia, District 4; Keith Ahlstrom of Dunkirk, District 1; Shaun Heenan of Dunkirk, District 2; Chuck Nazzaro of Jamestown, District 9; and Paula DeJoy of Jamestown, District 13.
Republican legislators include Terry Niebel of Sheridan, District 5; George Borrello of Irving, District 6; John Runkle of Stockton, District 7; Pierre Chagnon of Bemus Point, District 8; PJ Wendel of Lakewood, District 10; David Wilfong of Jamestown, District 11; Mark Tarbrake of Jamestown, District 14; Lisa Vanstrom of West Ellicott, District 15; Jay Gould of Ashville, District 17; David Himelein of Findley Lake, District 18; John Hemmer of Westfield, District 19; Bob Scudder of Fredonia, District 3; and Ron Lemon of Frewsburg, District 16.
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