Task force to seek information on Forestville’s viability

FORESTVILLE – No matter one’s stance on whether the village of Forestville dissolves, a task force was created with the primary goal to inform the community.

In order to assist Forestville with an overwhelming tax hike, the Chautauqua County Legislature last fall gave the village a loan. Along with this loan came conditions, one of which was participating in a task force to investigate the village government’s viability.

Recently, Forestville Mayor Kevin Johnson met with County Executive Vince Horrigan, Legislator George Borrello, Hanover Councilman Kevin O’Connell, former legislator and Hanover resident Rod Rogers, two village board members and representatives from Gov. Cuomo’s office and the Department of State.

At this past week’s village board meeting, Johnson reported the meeting established who will serve on the task force to examine the viability of Forestville as an independent municipal entity.

Members will include Borrello as chairman, Johnson, O’Connell, Rogers and one member to be appointed by Johnson and one to be appointed by Hanover Supervisor Todd Johnson.

“As a result of this, I had to do some soul searching,” Johnson said.

He read a letter that will be sent to residents, outlining what challenges the village has faced and what the board plans to do in the future.

“I want you to know my take on the difficulties facing Forestville in years to come. I believe some of the problem comes from its citizens’ trust in elected officials – which normally is a good thing – but in our case maybe went too far,” he read.

He said the board has put in place checks and balances to make sure village business is not susceptible to error or wrong doing.

“Some of these safeguards will have a monetary cost to maintain, but I believe it is better to pay a little now, than face a financial crisis like we just had,” he continued.

Some of these checks include hiring a new code enforcement officer, appointing a claims auditor and reinstating the zoning and planning boards.

Johnson explained the task force will look into doing a study at no cost to the village in order to examine a range of options for the future.

“My opposition to dissolution is well known and no secret. I want you to know that I will continue to fight for the village and its citizens. I will fight to make it a better place to live. I will fight for us to exist,” he added, saying he will need to see a majority of residents in favor of dissolution for him to change his mind.

Borrello also attended the village board meeting and stressed the importance of the study.

“I want the village to be informed. I am not here to push dissolution,” he said. “We are all in the same boat, we may have different opinions, but when the study is done, we will have information to go on.”

He mentioned to residents, after a study was done, some legislators changed their minds about selling the County Home based on the information.

He also emphasized the study will be on the viability of the local government and cannot erase Forestville as a community.

“The study will tell us the cost of the status quo and other options, and not only dissolution or the status quo, but a range of options,” he said.

Borrello thanked the board for its participation in the task force and asked that everyone keep an open mind.

The village board will meet again on Aug. 12.

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