Committees talk grants, welfare update

MAYVILLE – Wednesday night’s County Legislature committee meetings revolved mostly around topics not included on the agendas.

Sheriff Joe Gerace and Undersheriff Charles Holder attended the Public Safety Committee to discuss current efforts to implement training staff as emergency medical services providers.

First, Gerace said the Sheriff’s Office must be recognized as a service provider by the state, which fully reimburses deputies for training.

Then, beginning in the fall, small classes of 10-15 officers will begin training as emergency medical technicians.

“Fall and winter are the best times for training,” Holder said. “We’re also trying to find trainers and get the program rolling. We have a lot of hoops to jump through, but we’re moving along.”

In other matters, a grant from the Department of Homeland Security in the amount of $393,860 was discussed in order to support recruitment and retention of firefighters throughout the county.

Currently, 15 students representing 10 departments are qualified for a tuition reimbursement portion of the program, which requires them to keep a 2.0 grade point average and dedicate five years to local service after college graduation.

All committee members approved of accepting the grant, with the exception of PJ Wendel, R-Lakewood, who was absent from the meeting.

HUMAN SERVICES

Christine Schuyler provided a Welfare to Work update at the next meeting, and announced that she had received a letter of recognition from the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

The letter commended Schuyler and her staff for efforts to reduce fraud, waste and abuse within welfare programs totalling more than $8 million in 2013.

“That’s a significant increase, seeing as how in 2012 we only detected $2 million,” Schuyler said, adding that fraud detection throughout the application process along with detecting abuse within programs results in the cost savings.

The Office of Temporary Assistance received 1,012 applications for benefits in March, of which 328 were denied.

As previously requested by the Human Services Committee, Schuyler and Marge Johnson, director of temporary assistance, provided statistics on applicants from states other than New York.

Twelve out of 28 applicants listed prior addresses in Puerto Rico. Five out-of-state applicants were from Pennsylvania.

Ron Lemon, R-Frewsburg, and Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia, were both absent from the meeting.

PLANNING AND

ECONOMIC

DEVELOPMENT

At the third meeting of the night, a memorandum in support of the creation of the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Alliance was discussed.

Mark Geise, deputy director of the Chautauqua County Department of Planning and Economic Development, attended the meeting to describe the alliance’s mission.

“The goal of the watershed alliance is to prioritize lake projects, procure funding and allocate funding,” Geise said.

Geise said that seeing as how stakeholders have been meeting for well over a year, it would make sense to establish the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance as a tax-exempt organization with support from local foundations.

“Chautauqua Lake is a unique and invaluable asset of Chautauqua County that enhances the environment and quality of life, while numerous factors threaten its health and usability,” states the resolution.

The memorandum further states that it is essential for the future of the lake’s health to have a legal entity with a primary mission to prioritize future projects.

SUBCOMMITTEE

Legislature Chairman Jay Gould, R-Ashville, attended all meetings to suggest the formation of an Environmental Committee as a subgroup of the legislature’s standing committees.

“There’s getting to be a lot of discussion of fracking and issues with the lake, and I feel like there is a need for an environmental committee now,” Gould said. “My plan is to appoint four or five legislators, one from each existing committee.”

The group would meet as needed, and will be further discussed at today’s Audit and Control Committee meeting in Mayville.

The Environmental Committee will be composed in the coming months.

Shaun Heenan, D-Dunkirk, was absent from the Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting.

All resolutions must receive full approval of the County Legislature, which will hold its full regular meeting on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the legislative chambers of the Gerace Office Building in Mayville.